Abstract Background: Exposure to formaldehyde (FA) causes irritative effects and induces nasopharyngeal cancer; the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC, Lyon) classified FA as carcinogenic to humans, Group 1. Many studies have been published so far concerning the occupational exposure of industrial workers, embalmers, pathologists and anatomists to FA but very few data regarding medical examiners are available. Methods: To assess the extent to which subjects were exposed to FA, airborne concentrations of this chemical were measured by High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC). In September-October 2006 we examined the personnel, which worked in an autopsy room (medical examiners) and in three laboratories of pathologic anatomy of the University Medical School of Bari, Policlinico Hospital, Southern Italy. Irritative effects were also investigated. Results: All the personal exposure data obtained exceeded the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Threshold Limit Value-Time Weighted Average (NIOSH TLV-TWA: 0.02 mg/m3) and, in a few cases, even the American Conference of Industrial Hygienists Threshold Limit Value-Ceiling level (ACGIH TLV-C: 0.37 mg/m3). Conclusion: Irritative effects in more than 50% of the workers enrolled, increasing the risk of injuries.
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