Formaldehyde is now added to a list of known carcinogens by the US government.
In a report prepared for the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), scientists warned that people with higher exposure to formaldehyde increases risk of nasopharyngeal cancer, myeloid leukemia and other cancers.
Jennifer Sass of the National Resources Defense Council, a U.S. environmental group, praised the government for publishing the report in the face of what she described as pressure by chemical companies to prevent its release.
The chemical is colorless, flammable, strong-smelling chemical widely used to make resins for household items, such as composite wood products, paper product coatings, plastics, synthetic fibers, and textile finishes.
It is also commonly used as a preservative in medical laboratories, mortuaries, and some consumer products, including hair straightening products.
It, however, said listing the substances did not in itself mean they would cause cancer.
Amount and duration of exposure, and susceptibility to a substance were among the many factors that affected whether a person developed cancer, it said.