Pregnancy is a particularly vulnerable time for exposure to such indoor air pollutants as formaldehyde (FA), which is linked to spontaneous abortion, congenital malformations, and premature birth. Dr. Michelle V. Fanucchi, associate professor and chair in the department of environmental health sciences at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, in collaboration with Dr. Azita Amiri, assistant professor in the College of Nursing at the University of Alabama in Huntsville — along with Dr. Erica Pryor, associate professor; Dr. Marti Rice, professor; and Dr. Anne Turner-Henson, professor, in UAB’s School of Nursing — recently conducted research with a study sample of 140 pregnant women recruited from obstetrical clinics in Huntsville, Alabama, to determine personal exposure to FA during pregnancy and to identify the relationship between FA exposure levels and potential residential sources of FA.
Formaldehyde exposure was measured by FA vapor monitor badges. Questionnaires were administered to participants to identify potential residential sources of FA; urine cotinine, a surrogate for tobacco smoke exposure, was also used as an indicator of a possible source of residential exposure to FA. Results indicate that the mean level of FA exposure by vapor monitor badge was 0.04 parts per million (ppm) (SD = 0.06; range 0.003-0.54 ppm). Minimum risk levels of 0.03 and higher were found in 36.4 percent of participants. Exposure levels of FA were higher in spring than in winter (p < 0.001). Exposure levels of FA were correlated with indoor temperature of dwellings (p < 0.02), installation of new carpet within the last 5 years (p < 0.04), and use of nail polish (p < 0.01). No relationship was found between FA exposure and urine cotinine levels.
The researchers concluded that whereas formaldehyde exposure may increase at various times in the lives of women it is of particular concern during pregnancy because of perinatal risk to the exposed fetus.
“Formaldehyde Exposure during Pregnancy” is published in the May-June issue of MCN: The American Journal of Maternal/Child Nursing.