Comparative Analysis of Health Risk Associated with Occupational Exposure to Formaldehyde in Public and Private Mortuaries in Rivers State, Nigeria

Main Article Content

Obed-Whyte, Roland
K. E. Douglas
Nte, Alice


Background: Formaldehyde (FA) is a well-known chemical widely used in mortuaries in Nigeria for the preservation of human cadavers, yet little is known of the potential health risk associated with occupational exposure to formaldehyde in mortuaries. This study evaluated the potential health risk associated with occupational exposure to formaldehyde in mortuaries in Rivers State, Nigeria.

Methodology: The study was carried out in 7 public and 8 private mortuaries and the concentrations of formaldehyde to which the morticians are exposed were measured during the embalmment process. Modeling of health related risk was carried out in accordance with methods recommended by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA).

Results: The results showed that the lethal concentrations of formaldehyde in the mortuaries far exceeded the “No Significant Risk Levels” (LC50 = 3.3 ppm for public mortuaries; and 3.46 ppm for private mortuaries). Analysis showed that 77.2% of workers in the public mortuaries have high daily formaldehyde exposure index, while 88.24% of the workers in the private mortuaries have high daily formaldehyde exposure index. The difference between the formaldehyde daily exposure index and daily potential dose in public and private mortuaries was not statistically significant (p > 0.05). Computed hazard quotients for both public and private were 1.25 and 3.0 respectively (> 1). Computed cancer related risk values for public and private mortuaries were 1.5x10-3 and 1.9x10-3 respectively.

Conclusion: The study showed that embalmers in both the public and private mortuaries in Rivers State occupationally exposed to formaldehyde have significant risk of developing carcinogenic and non-carcinogenic related health problems. It is therefore, recommended that operators of mortuaries and Rivers State Government should provide FA monitoring device and continuous health education for workers.

Formaldehyde, mortuaries, carcinogenic, non-carcinogenic

Article Details

How to Cite
Roland, O.-W., Douglas, K. E., & Alice, N. (2019). Comparative Analysis of Health Risk Associated with Occupational Exposure to Formaldehyde in Public and Private Mortuaries in Rivers State, Nigeria. Asian Journal of Medicine and Health, 15(2), 1-14.
Original Research Article

Article Metrics


Kumar MS, Goud BR, Joseph B, Varghese. Occupational health and safety measures in a mortuary of Private Tertiary Health Care Medical College Hospital, Bangalore. Indian Journal of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology. 2016;10(1):98-103.

Okoth-Okelloh AM, Ogonda BA, Ogolla S, Tonui WK, Onyango R. Quality assurance for occupational health and safety administration (OSHA) In the morgue: The impact of SOP domestication on implementation and practice of universal safety precautions in Kenya. Journal of Biology, Agriculture and Healthcare. 2013; 3(19):1-10.

Work Safe. Guide for the funeral industry. Workplace Health and Safety Queensland. 2013, PN10564 Version 2; 2013.

Work Safe. Funeral Directors Information and Checklist. Government of Western Australia, Department of Commerce; 2010.

WHO guidelines for indoor air quality: Selected pollutants. The WHO European Centre for Environment and Health, Bonn Office; 2010.

NCDOL. A Guide to Formaldehyde. N.C. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Program; 2013.

USEPA. Health and Environmental Effects Profile for Formaldehyde. EPA/600/x-85/362. Environmental Criteria and Assessment Office, Office of Health and Environmental Assessment, Office of Research and Development, Cincinnati, OH; 1988.

WHO. Environmental Health Criteria for Formaldehyde. Volume 89. World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland; 1989.

Hauptmann M, Lubin JH, Stewart PA, Hayes RB, Blair A. Mortality from Lymphohematopoitic malignancies among workers in FA industry. Jounal of the National Cancer Institute. 2013;95(21): 1615-1623.

USDHHS. Registry of toxic effects of chemical substances (RTECS, online database). U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Toxicology Information Program, National Library of Medicine, Bethesda, MD; 1993.

Oaklander M. Why funeral directors may be at higher risk for ALS; 2015.
Available:, accessed 25th March 2019

Douglas KE, Peterside SS. Assessment of workplace hazards in mortuaries in Port Harcourt. Port Harcourt Med. J. 2016; 10(3):102-110.

Obed-Whyte R, Douglas KE, Akaranta O. Comparative assessment of formaldehyde concentrations in public and private mortuaries in Rivers State, Nigeria. Journal of Scientific Research & Reports; 2019.

MOM. A Semi-Quantitative Method Assess occupational exposure to harmful chemicals. Ministry of manpower. Occupational Safety and Health Division; 2010.

Tang TK. WSH risk management & OH development in Singapore. Conference proceedings, Ministry of Manpower, OSH Specialists Department, Singapore; 2016.

USEPA. Guidelines for Exposure Assessment. Risk Assessment Forum, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Washington, DC. Federal Register. 1992; 57(104):22888-22938.

USEPA. Exposure factors handbook. National Center for Environmental Assessment, Office of Research and Development; 1997.

Beheshti MH, Firoozi CA, Alinaghi LAA, Rostami S. Semi-quantitative risk assess-ment of health exposure to hazardous chemical agents in a petrochemical plant. JOHE, Winter. 2015;4(1).

Heydari P, Varmazyar S, Ahmadi S, Alizadeh SS, Fallahi A. Evaluating the semi-quantitative risk of occupational exposure to chemicals in one of the petrochemical industries. Scientific Journal of Review. 2016;5(7):435-439.

Dazi H, Heydari P, Shokri S, Varmazyar S, Safari Variani A. Semi-quantitative assessment of the health risk of occupational exposure to chemicals and evaluation of spirometry indices on the staff of petrochemical industry. Arch Hyg Sci. 2017;6(1):49-57.

USEPA. Chapter 6—Inhalation Rates. Exposure Factors Handbook National Center for Environmental Assessment, Office of Research and Development; 2011.

USEPA. Risk assessment guidance for superfund, Human Health Evaluation Manual. EPA/540/189/ 002. US Environ-mental Protection Agency, Washington, DC. 1989;1.

National Bureau of Statistics. Statistical Report on Women and Men in Nigeria; 2018. Available:

OEHHA. Current proposition 65 no significant risk levels (NSRLs) Maximum Allowable Dose Levels (MADLs). Updated April 2018. California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA); 2018.

ATSDR. Addendum to the Toxicological Profile for Formaldehyde. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, Division of Toxicology and Environmental Medicine; 2010.

Olooto WE. Assessment of the effect of formaldehyde Exposure on the liver in mortuary workers in South Western Nigeria. Nigerian Medical Practitioner. 2010;57(4):65-68.

Checkoway H, Dell LD, Boffetta P, Gallagher AE, Crawford L, Lees PSJ, Mundt KA. Formaldehyde exposure and mortality risks from acute myeloid mleukemia and other lymphohematopoietic malignancies in the US national cancer institute cohort study of workers in formaldehyde industries. American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. J. 2015;57(7):785-794.

IARC. A review of human carcinogens Part F: Chemical agents and related occupations. International Agency for Research on Cancer Monographs on the evaluation of carcinogenic risks to humans. Lyon: WHO. 2012;100.