SAFETY--Storage, Transportation, Handling and Disposal of FORMALDEHYDE (FORMALIN) SOLUTION

In Reply Refer To:
Mail Stop 405                                      July 30, 1993


Subject:          SAFETY--Storage, Transportation, Handling and Disposal
                         of FORMALDEHYDE (FORMALIN) SOLUTION

The purpose of this safety memorandum is to provide technical guidance in the
handling, storage, transportation and disposal of the chemical formaldehyde
(formalin) in solution, as provided under 29 CFR 1910.1048 and other
applicable Federal and State regulations as amended.


Formaldehyde is a colorless gas with a pungent, suffocating odor, most often
used in aqueous solutions for purposes of preserving specimens.  Formalin, the
liquid formaldehyde solution used by the Water Resources Division, is a 30-50
percent formaldehyde by weight solution which can contain 10-15 percent
methanol.  Formalin, when exposed to air, will emit formaldehyde gas.
Formaldehyde is a highly flammable liquid/gas and should be considered a fire
hazard.  It strongly oxidizes in the presence of alkalis, acids and phenols.


             Acute Effects

A.          Ingestion - concentrations greater than 10 percent causes severe
irritation and inflammation of the mouth, throat, and stomach.  Following
ingestion, severe stomach pains, loss of consciousness and death can

B.          Inhalation - highly irritating to the upper respiratory tract.
Concentrations of .05 to 2.0 parts per million (p/m) may irritate mouth,
eyes, nose and throat while 3 to 20 p/m can cause excessive tearing, difficulty
in breathing and coughing that may be intolerable to some persons.  At
25-30 p/m formaldehyde causes severe respiratory tract injury,
pulmonary edema and pneumonitis.  Formaldehyde is immediately
dangerous to life and health at a concentration of 100 p/m.

C.         Dermal - Formalin is a severe skin irritant causing discoloration
drying, cracking and scaling.  Prolonged exposures can lead to numbness and
hardening of skin, allergic eczematous dermatitis or hives.

D.         Eyes - Depending upon concentration, corneal clouding and loss of
vision can occur.


Chronic Effects

A.         Carcinogenicity - In humans, formaldehyde exposure has been
associated with cancers of the lung, nasopharynx, oropharynx and nasal
passages.  Repeated and prolonged exposures increases risk.

B.         Mutagenicity - Formaldehyde is mutagenic in several in vitro
test systems showing properties of both an initiator and a promoter.

C.         Toxicity - Prolonged or repeated exposure may result in respiratory
impairment.  Rats exposed to 2 p/m formaldehyde developed nasal
tumors and change in cell structure of the nose while humans have been
observed to have structural changes in the epithelial cells in the nose.


The perception of formaldehyde by odor and eye irritation becomes less
sensitive with time and can lead to overexposure if workers are relying on
formaldehyde's properties to alert them to potential danger.


The legal airborne permissible exposure limit (PEL) is 1 p/m in a 8-hour
workday.  Short-term exposure (15 minutes) is limited to 2 p/m while the action
level for formaldehyde is 0.5 p/m.


Transportation - Formaldehyde should be transported only in original container,
fully labeled and stored properly within the vehicle to prevent shifting,
spillage or breakage.  Formaldehyde should never be opened, mixed or
transferred to sample vials at any time inside a closed vehicle.  A
Materials Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) should be in the possession of the
user and made available to those working with this chemical.

Contingency Spills and Response - During operational use and/or during
transportation where an accidental spill is likely to occur, each field unit
should have as part of their required emergency equipment, sufficient absorbent
material to handle small spills.  Clean, 1 gallon plastic Nalgene containers
with Teflon screw caps, or equivalent, clearly labeled, should be available
for small spills and for transporting used formalin from the field to the
laboratory for proper disposal.  Care should be exercised during clean-up
that no person becomes dermally exposed to formaldehyde.  If, during the
emergency, the spill occurs where there is insufficient ventilation to proceed
with clean-up, the area should be vacated immediately and others should be
prevented from entering the spill area unless properly suited and with a
self- contained air supply.  Proper authorities should be notified if the
spill occurs on a roadway or has potential to do harm by entering a water
supply or other bodies of water where there is a greater exposure potential
to humans and/or an aquatic ecosystem.  A record of how much of the chemical
was spilled and the method of clean-up and proper disposal should be under-
taken once the spill has been contained and dealt with, not during the
emergency.  If exposed to formaldehyde, flush exposed skin with copious
amounts of water and remove contaminated clothing as quickly as possible
to prevent continued exposure.


At all times, formaldehyde should only be handled, mixed or added to specimen
containers with the upmost caution, in ventilated areas such as open air
table if in the field and under an appropriate fume hood if in the laboratory.
Formaldehyde should never be opened or mixed while inside a vehicle.  If
there is the possibility of splashing, a face shield should be worn while
mixing or pouring formaldehyde.  At all times, disposable gloves must be
worn to prevent dermal exposure when handling and/or mixing this product.
NEVER smoke or have an open flame while working with formaldehyde.


Formaldehyde should be stored in a cool, dry, well-ventilated area and properly
labeled.  Formaldehyde should never be stored in vehicles except to transport
to and from field during sampling operations.  Used formaldehyde, either from
spill clean-up or from activities generated from the process of change-out of
sample containers must be stored in a properly labeled hazardous waste
container and made available for recycling under Resources Conservation
Recovery Act (RCRA) protocols.  Storage of waste formaldehyde should be in
an area not frequented by the general population or duty workers and should
be in an area not subject to heat cycles and well ventilated.


Spilled or used formaldehyde is considered a hazardous waste and must be
handled as a solid waste under RCRA.  The generator--be it in the field
office or the district office--must contact a hazardous waste contractor
for appropriate disposal under RCRA regulations.  An Environmental protection
Agency (EPA) identification number must be obtained for each site from which
disposal of a regulated material or waste will be made.  Instructions on how
to obtain an EPA identification number were included in the "Hazardous
Materials Assessment" document transmitted on May 14, 1993, by the Chief,
Branch of Operational Support.  Uniform Hazardous Waste Manifests (EPS form
8700-22) and records must be maintained on the amounts of waste formaldehyde,
storage time, and the contractor involved in the hazardous waste recycling.

                                    William B. Mann IV
                                    Assistant Chief Hydrologist for Ops


1.         Section 19 of Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) 1970 -
             Public Law 91-596.

2.         Executive Order 12196, Occupational Safety and Health Programs for
             Federal Employees.


1.         29 CFR 1910.1000 (OSHA) Toxic and Hazardous Substances
2.         29 CFR 1910.1048 (OSHA) Formaldehyde
3.         29 CFR 1910.1200 (OSHA) Hazard Communication
4.         29 CFR 1910.1048 (OSHA) Formaldehyde, Irritant and Potential Cancer
5.         29 CFR 1910.1450 (OSHA) Occupational Exposure to Hazardous
            Chemicals in Laboratories
6.         40 CFR 262 (EPA) Standards Applicable to Generators of Hazardous
7.         49 CFR 172.101 (DOT) Table of Hazardous Materials and Special

This memorandum does not supersede any previous WRD Memorandum.

Distribution:  A,B,S,FO,PO

Key Words:   Hazardous Materials, Transportation, Chemical