G2 Tests Formaldehyde Levels in Anatomy Class Offered at Local University

The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) have characterized formaldehyde as a human carcinogen. Once exposed to formaldehyde, people often report irritation to the eyes, nose and throat. The highest potential for occupational exposures to formaldehyde are in the wood product and resin industries. However, individuals in the medical, dental and university fields may also be at risk to formaldehyde exposures. When an anatomy class at a local university left students and professors exposed to formaldehyde at high concentration levels, G2 Consultants launched an industrial hygiene assessment.


G2 was retained by a local university to perform an analysis of formaldehyde exposure on instructors as they conducted an anatomy class. For instructional purposes, human cadavers were used during the class, and these were preserved with a formaldehyde embalming solution. Previous exposure data indicated that instructors were likely exposed to formaldehyde at concentrations above the OR-OSHA Action Level (AL). Since this exposure occurred, the university was required to conduct additional monitoring every six months, until exposure levels have been reduced to below the OR-OSHA AL.

Assessing Exposure Levels

G2 conducted a personal monitoring assessment, and included three instructors in the testing. Two types of samples were collected from each of the three instructors. The first set of personal samples collected lasted the duration of the class, and were then compared to the OR-OSHA AL and Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) as 8-hour time weighted averages (TWAs). Then, two additional 15 minute samples were collected from each instructor to compare exposures to the OR-OSHA Short Term Exposure Limit (STEL).

G2 Recommendations

The results of this assessment indicated that the instructor’s personal exposure to formaldehyde were below all applicable OR-OSHA limits. The university was relieved to know that they had mitigated the issue and that their faculty and students could continue to operate safely in the anatomy class. G2 recommended that the university investigate the feasibility of switching from a formaldehyde-base embalming agent to a monoethaolamine-based embalming solution, as an effort to mitigate formaldehyde exposure to students and instructors.

About G2 Consultants

G2 Consultants is a Northwest US based firm with nationwide capabilities. We provide full-service safety, industrial hygiene, occupational health, and environmental health consulting to public, private, and governmental sector clients. Our expertise covers regulatory compliance consulting, risk assessment, health hazard evaluations, waste management, and indoor air quality evaluations. The G2 team boasts over 80 years combined experience in workplace assessments, mold, asbestos, lead, respirator fit testing, training, and indoor environmental quality consulting. We pride ourselves on taking a fresh and innovative approach to our work and delivering on time and on budget.

Contact us today to help make sure your company is in compliance. Our team, made up of accredited professionals with extensive experience, can provide the tools and opportunity you need to keep your employees and workplace safe.