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What is formaldehyde?

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Quick Answer

Formaldehyde is an organic chemical compound of the aldehyde family with the chemical formula HCHO. It exists as a colorless gas with a strong, pungent odor at standard temperature pressure. When dissolved in water, formaldehyde is used as a preservant and disinfectant.

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Full Answer

Formaldehyde serves as a chemical precursor in the production of a large number of chemicals. Formaldehyde is a human carcinogen, or cancer-causing agent, according to OSHA. Because of its biocidal properties when dissolved in water, formaldehyde is often used for disinfecting surfaces and equipment in biological and medical settings. Formaldehyde is synthesized through catalyzed oxidation of methane gas.

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