Compiled By Rich Murray, MA
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Posted: 03 December 2009

Kid asthma related to formaldehyde, G McGwin Jr, J Lienert, JI Kennedy Jr, Environmental Health Perspectives 2009.11.06 abstract: Rich Murray 2009.12.01
Tuesday, December 1, 2009


"The results indicate that there is a significant positive association between formaldehyde exposure and childhood asthma."
[Study accepted for publication, text still in process]

Formaldehyde Exposure and Asthma in Children: A Systematic Review
Gerald McGwin, Jr., Jeffrey Lienert, and John I. Kennedy, Jr.
Environmental Health Perspectives
National Institutes of Health
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Doi: 10.1289/ehp.0901143 (available at
Online 6 November 2009

Gerald McGwin, Jr. 1, Jeffrey Lienert 2, John I. Kennedy, Jr. 3,4

  1. Department of Epidemiology, School of Public Health, niversity of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL
  2. Franklin and Marshall College, Lancaster, PA
  3. Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Birmingham, AL
  4. Division of Pulmonary, Allergy & Critical Care Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL

Address for correspondence: Gerald McGwin, Jr., M.S., Ph.D.
922 7th Avenue South, Suite 120
Birmingham, AL 35294
205-975-3030 (ph.); 205-975-3040 (fax)



Despite multiple published studies regarding the association between formaldehyde exposure and childhood asthma, a consistent association has not been identified. This study reports the results of a systematic review of published literature in order to provide a more comprehensive picture of this relationship.

Data Sources:

Seven peer-reviewed studies providing quantitative results regarding the association between formaldehyde exposure and asthma in children were identified following a comprehensive literature search. There was heterogeneity across studies with respect to the definition of asthma (e.g., self-report, physician diagnosis). The majority of studies were crosssectional in nature.

Data Extraction:

For each study, an odds ratio (OR) and 95% confidence interval (CI) for asthma was either abstracted from published results or calculated based on the data provided. Characteristics regarding the study design and population were also abstracted.

Data Synthesis:

Fixed and random effects models were used to calculate pooled ORs and 95% CIs; measures of heterogeneity were also calculated. The results of a fixed effects model produced an OR of 1.03 (95% CI 1.02-1.04), and random effects model an OR of 1.17 (95% CI 1.01-1.36), both reflecting an increase of 10 microg/m3 of formaldehyde. Both the Q and I2 statistics indicated a moderate amount of heterogeneity.

Conclusions: Key Words: asthma, children, epidemiology, formaldehyde, meta-analysis

Acknowledgements and Grant Support: None

Competing Interests Declaration:

Dr. McGwin has been paid as an expert witness regarding the health effects of formaldehyde exposure.

List of abbreviations and definitions used in manuscript:

NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health)
ppm (parts per million)
ppb (parts per billion)
OR (odds ratio)
CI (confidence interval)

Article Descriptor: asthma

Outline of Section Headers
Figure Legends

Gerald McGwin, Jr., PhD
Professor and Vice Chair of Epidemiology

Biography | Contact | Publications | Research Program

Address: University of Alabama at Birmingham 700 S. 18th Street, Suite 609
Birmingham, AL 35294-0009
Phone: (205) 325-8117 Fax: (205) 325-8692

Gerald McGwin, Jr. is originally from Portland, Maine. He received his B.S. degree from the University of Vermont (1993) majoring in Education. He received an M.S. degree in Health and Social Behavior from the Harvard University School of Public Health (1995) and a Ph.D. degree in Epidemiology from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (1998). Throughout his academic training, Dr. McGwin's research interests focused on injuries, particularly as they relate to elderly populations.

Since 1998 Dr. McGwin has been on the faculty of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where he is currently Professor and Vice Chair of Epidemiology with secondary appointments in the Departments of Ophthalmology and Surgery. His current research interests focus on the epidemiology of injuries, particularly motor vehicle collisions and burns, aging-related eye diseases, and lupus.

John I. Kennedy, Jr., M.D.
Associate Chief of Staff -- Acute & Specialty Care
Chief, Medical Service, Birmingham VA Medical Ctr.
UAB Hospital
1802 6th Avenue South
Birmingham, AL 35249
(205) 934-9999
Specialty: Allergy and Asthma, Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care Medicine
Hospital Affiliations: UAB Hospital
Faculty Title: Professor
School of Medicine: Southwestern Medical School, 1981
Internship: University of Alabama at Birmingham From 1981 To 1982
Residencies: University of Alabama at Birmingham From 1982 To 1984
Fellowships: University of Alabama at Birmingham From 1984 To 1986
Certifications: American Board of Critical Care Medicine, 1987
American Board of Internal Medicine, 1984
American Board of Pulmonary Medicine, 1986
Diseases Treated/Clinical Interests: Critical care medicine, interstitial lung disease, COPD, pulmonary thromboembolic disease.

Asthma Linked to Formaldehyde Exposure in Clothing and Common Household Items Lourdes Salvador November 30, 2009

There is a significant association between formaldehyde exposure and childhood asthma according to a recent scientific literature review by researchers Gerald McGwin, Jr., Jeffrey Lienert, and John I. Kennedy, Jr.

Roughly 7% of adults and 9% of children suffer from asthma in the U.S. Seven peer-reviewed studies examined data showing an association between formaldehyde exposure and asthma in children.

Many products in the indoor environment emit formaldehyde, including particle board, urea formaldehyde insulation, carpeting, and furniture. Clothing is also treated with formaldehyde. Mobile travel trailers provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to displaced Gulf Coast residents have also been shown to contain excessively high levels of formaldehyde.

Exposure to formaldehyde can cause irritation of the eye, nose, throat and skin. Chronic exposure, such as that experienced in the home from treated furniture and carpets, has been linked with cancer and asthma.

"The results of this study provide important evidence regarding the potential causal link between formaldehyde and asthma in children, says McGwin.

Protect children from formaldehyde exposure next to the skin by buying organic and untreated clothing. Wrinkle resistant, stain resistant, and permanent press clothing are treated with formaldehyde and other potentially toxic chemicals. As a simple test on new clothing, fill a spray bottle with water and spray a bit on the garment. If it absorbs, the formaldehyde level is low. If it beads up and does not absorb, the formaldehyde level is high.

Most furniture is sprayed with potentially toxic chemicals to resist mold, wrinkles, and stains. Fire retardants are applied as well. Look for organic and untreated furniture. Press wood generally contains a high amount of formaldehyde. Consider metal and stainless steel options and sew your own cushions.

Bedding which has not been treated with fire retardants can only be purchased in the U.S. with a prescription from a doctor or chiropractor. If a prescription is not obtainable, consider an untreated mattress wrapped in wool, which meets the fire retardant laws in most states.

Formaldehyde can also be found in some childhood vaccinations. Check the ingredients before vaccinating. There are often other brands which may have little or no formaldehyde.

This article originally appeared in the MCS America News, December 2009 Issue 41 pages, free newsletter To subscribe to this very informative free newsletter, send an email

For more articles on this topic, see: MCSA News.

Copyrighted 2009 Lourdes Salvador & MCS America

Lourdes Salvador

Lourdes Salvador is the founder of MCS America, a science writer, and a social advocate for the greater awareness of environmental contamination, human toxicology, and propagation of multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) as a disorder of organic biological origin induced by toxic environmental insults.

The mission of MCS America (MCSA) is:

  1. To propagate medical, legal, and social recognition for multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) as a disorder of organic biological origin induced by toxic environmental insults.

  2. To provide support and referral services to the individuals with multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS), chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), fibromyalgia (FM), electrosensitivity, Gulf War Syndrome (GWS), autism, and other illnesses of environmental origin.

  3. To ensure that environmental toxicants are identified, reduced, regulated, and enforced through lobbying for effective legislation.

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Methanol (11% of aspartame), made by body into formaldehyde in many vulnerable tissues, causes modern diseases of civilization, summary of a century of research, Woodrow C Monte PhD, Medical Hypotheses journal: Rich Murray 2009.11.15
Sunday, November 15, 2009


Rich Murray, MA
Boston University Graduate School 1967 psychology
BS MIT 1964, history and physics
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