Hazard Watch: helping to protect employees from aldehydes

Hazard Watch is a first in our series of profiles of hazardous substances that all employers should be aware of and monitor for workplace exposure analysis. Aldehyde compounds in the workplace are a particular hazard to employees and it is critical to minimise their spread. 



Aldehydes are a family of reactive, organic compounds that occur in natural products and can also be manufactured in laboratories.

What makes aldehydes hazardous?

Aldehyde compounds, such as formaldehyde and acetaldehyde, are common products used to make other chemicals which are then used in manufacturing solvents, perfumes, plastics and pharmaceutical products.

Exposure to high levels of aldehydes, such as formaldehyde, can seriously affect the function of the lungs and the cell lining of an individual. This exposure can specifically narrow airway passages and long-term exposure to these compounds can even impact breathing patterns and efficiency. This could lead to serious conditions such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and Bronchitis.

Even low-level exposure to aldehydes can lead to some of these symptoms, including narrowing of the air passages and irritability of the eyes. Therefore, exposure to these compounds in the workplace, needs to be consistently and effectively monitored.


Minimising or preventing aldeyhyde exposure

To ensure employees remain protected, a thorough workplace monitoring programme should first be conducted. Also, the use of appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), such as respiratory protection or air filtration masks should be encouraged. Implementing these measures can provide firm assurances that the most comprehensive protection mechanisms are in place, to limit exposure.

The current workplace exposure limits for some Aldehydes are as follows:

  • Acetaldehyde has a current workplace exposure limit in the EH401 of 20ppm over an 8-hour period or 50ppm for a 15-minute period.
  • The limit for Formaldehyde is 20ppm over an 8-hour period or 30ppm for a 15-minute period.
  • Acrylaldehyde has an exposure limit of 0.02ppm over an 8-hour period or 0.05ppm for a 15-minute period

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has published a complete list of exposure limits on their website.


Our expertise in exposure monitoring and analysis for aldehydes

Workplace air monitoring is a critical component in the fight against limiting aldehyde exposure. It should be regularly carried out to accurately determine the accurate levels of exposure and threats to workers. Media such as 226-119 DNPH treated tubes, and DNPH treated Umex 500-100 badges, can be used for active monitoring.

RPS provides UKAS accredited analysis, as well as the provision of suitable media to specifically monitor the levels of aldehydes in the workplace, in line with NIOSH 2016 methods. 

With levels being consistently monitored, the rates of illness caused by potential exposure can and will be drastically reduced.


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