Its links with the disease remained subject to debate. Certain leukemias are caused by occupational exposure to formaldehyde, also called “formalin”, French health authorities confirmed on Tuesday, speaking out to facilitate recognition as an occupational disease. This substance was already classified as carcinogenic by various European or international organizations in particular in relation to nasopharyngeal cancer, but the risk of leukemias was always discussed.
After analysis of various data, the National Health Safety Agency (ANSES) concluded that there is “a proven causal relationship between occupational exposure to formaldehyde and myeloid leukemia”, according to a press release. ANSES, which had been contacted by several ministries (Health, Labor, etc.), issued a report confirming the existence of this cause and effect link.
She points out the wide use of formalin, for example as a preservative in embalming, a disinfectant in hospitals and in agriculture, and a fixative in anatomo-cytopathology laboratories. In the wood, textile or rubber industry, certain products or resins are also likely to release formaldehyde.
High levels of exposure in certain professional environments
Since the establishment, at the beginning of the 2000s, of rules for the prevention of carcinogenic, mutagenic or toxic risks for reproduction in the Labor Code, there has been “an overall reduction in the proportion of workers exposed”, according to the ‘Handles. Nevertheless, some workers may remain subject to high levels of formalin exposure in funeral services, health care, carpentry work, veneer manufacturing, wood panel manufacturing, etc.
The institution is paving the way for recognition of myeloid leukemia as an occupational disease, by favoring a table which would complement those of occupational pathologies linked to formaldehyde (dermatitis, eczema, rhinitis, asthma, nasopharyngeal cancer). This would “facilitate the recognition of cases of cancer” and contribute to better awareness among employees, patients, employers or doctors, according to ANSES.
“Over the last ten years, few requests for recognition of occupational disease have been made concerning myeloid leukemia,” she noted. This could be explained by “very uneven knowledge” of hematologists on occupational risk factors and the recognition system, or by “the difficulty of tracing occupational exposure to formaldehyde”, particularly for certain workers such as those in cleaning.