Can Formaldehyde Exposure Come From Cigarettes?

by Dr Antonio Howell, MD

in side effects

Dr. Howell

Formaldehyde is a flammable, colorless gas that has strong odor. Whilst the human body naturally produces a small amount of formaldehyde, most of this gas is released into the environment by burning fuels and household wastes. It is a crucial ingredient in many household products and construction materials like permanent-press fabrics, fiberboard, plywood and so much more. It is also combined with alcohol to produce formalin – the substance used to preserve dead bodies. But did you know that this potentially hazardous compound is also present in cigarettes?

People can get exposed to formaldehyde in many ways, for instance, by breathing air tinted with the gas in ventilated indoor environments. But aside from this, a very common source of formaldehyde exposure is cigarette smoking.

chemicals in glass bottles

According to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health, high levels (three times the occupational limits) of formaldehyde is evident in sidestream smoke or the smoke which goes into the air directly from a burning cigarette. Higher-than-normal levels of the gas are present in places where people smoke.


Cigarettes are a haven of thousands of harmful chemicals that can make the human body susceptible to a wide range of illnesses. It won’t be a surprise if scientists have discovered formaldehyde in tobacco products.

Short-term effects of formaldehyde:


People who use tobacco and those who are exposed to cigarette smoke often experience the following short-term symptoms: watering of the eyes, wheezing, coughing, burning sensations in the eyes, nose, and throat, skin irritation and nausea. Some smokers who are sensitive to formaldehyde are a higher risk of developing asthma.

Long-term effects of formaldehyde:

Less is known about the possible long-term effects of this gas to human health. Lab studies have shown that exposure to formaldehyde can cause nasal cancer and nasopharyngeal cancer in both animals and humans. In a 1995 study by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), experts identified this gas as a ‘potential’ human

DID YOU KNOW?


Formaldehyde is no doubt a toxic substance. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) allows no more than 0.016 ppm formaldehyde in the air in new buildings. But the amount of the gas present in places where people smoke are much higher – making smokers and non-smokers alike severely at risk of both its short-term and long-term effects to health.

carcinogen. And in 2004, the IARC formally included it in the list of ‘known’ carcinogens. Furthermore, it has been found that small amounts of the gas present in secondhand smoke may increase one’s lifetime risk of cancer.

Formaldehyde is no doubt a toxic substance. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) allows no more than 0.016 ppm formaldehyde in the air in new buildings. But the amount of the gas present in places where people smoke are much higher – making smokers and non-smokers alike severely at risk of both its short-term and long-term effects to health. This is one of the many reasons why tobacco use is highly dangerous to human health. But aside from formaldehyde, cigarette smoke also contains more than 200 other carcinogens, including acetaldehyde, arsenic, heterocyclic amines, nitromethane, and benzene.

If you are a smoker, now is the time to consider quitting. There are different smoking cessation strategies that are proven effective in helping people ditch the habit. If others have made it, so you can!


Previous post:

Next post:

Click here to subscribe to my mailing list