Formaldehyde and Xylene Fume Extraction in Mortuaries

Formaldehyde, xylene and hot paraffin wax fumes are all chemicals used within mortuaries as a method of preserving and embalming the body. Toxic chemicals such as these pose a serious health risk to mortuary staff who face long term exposure. Having the correct fume extraction systems and equipment in place is vital to protect the health and safety of staff and visitors. There are many reports of the toxic effects of exposure to these chemicals but very little documentation on the importance of efficient fume extraction systems for their removal.


ATEX Polypropylene Fan for Formaldehyde Extraction

Polypropylene fume extraction fans with spark proof ATEX motors are essential when exhausting chemicals such as Xylene due to the presence of potentially explosive gases. The hazards of xylene are not as extensively reported but it is given a moderate toxicity rating and is known to cause acute respiratory stress, headache, nausea, loss of appetite, lassitude and impairment of coordination. Formaldehyde is recorded as the most harmful chemical within mortuary processes and is a colourless, flammable and strong-smelling chemical that is also used in building materials, household products and as an industrial disinfectant. However, moderate amounts found in other items are not the main cause of concern. It is most dangerous in occupational settings where there is risk of it being inhaled or absorbed through the skin in liquid form. If formaldehyde is present in the air and reaches levels higher than 0.1 parts per million (ppm), some people could have health effects such as watery eyes, coughing, wheezing, nausea, skin irritation and burning sensations of the eyes, nose and throat. It is important to note that depending on the individual’s sensitivity to formaldehyde others may have no reaction to the same level of exposure.


Based on the available evidence of reports of long term exposure to formaldehyde, many medical groups deem it as “a known carcinogen” and according to the American Cancer Society some of these expert agencies have evaluated the cancer-causing potential of formaldehyde;


The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) is part of the World Health Organization (WHO). Its major goal is to identify causes of cancer. IARC has concluded that formaldehyde is “carcinogenic to humans” based on higher risks of nasopharyngeal cancer and leukemia.

The National Toxicology Program (NTP) is formed from parts of several different US government agencies, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The NTP lists formaldehyde as “known to be a human carcinogen.”

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) maintains the Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS), an electronic database that contains information on human health effects from exposure to various substances in the environment. The EPA has classified formaldehyde as a “probable human carcinogen.”

National Cancer Institute researchers have concluded that, based on data from studies in people and from lab research, exposure to formaldehyde may cause leukaemia, particularly myeloid leukaemia, in humans.


Formaldehyde Extraction


Downdraught ventilation tables control the levels of formaldehyde exposure by extracting the fumes downwards through a ducting system which forces the fumes out to atmosphere. It is crucial that the fan in the system powers the required airflow to effectively vacuum the toxic fumes away. Corrosion resistant polypropylene fans are used in this type of environment due to their ability to easily withstand harsh chemicals.



For more information or a specification for a fume extraction application, contact us on 01782 349 430 or email [email protected]

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