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Chronic effects of formalin vapors on pulmonary functions tests of medical students over a period of nine months

Ayesha Anjum, Vanajakshi B J.


Background: The medical students studying in 1st year are exposed to the formalin vapors during their classes and also during practical experiments. Formalin is extensively used in medical colleges as a preservative and also as a disinfectant. It is a noxious chemical which can cause acute as well as chronic health effects. Since its main route of exposure is through inhalation and as it can get absorbed into the lungs, it is possible that it can affect the lungs, whose main function is gas exchange. The main purpose of this study was to investigate the respiratory effects if any in long-term exposure to formalin vapors in medical students.

Aims and Objectives: The main aim of this study was to assess the chronic effects of formalin vapor exposure on pulmonary function tests in 1st-year medical students studying at Raichur Institute of Medical Sciences, Raichur.

Materials and Methods: This study was done on 100 healthy 1st-year medical students of the age group 17–20 years. Institutional Ethical Committee clearance was obtained. Informed consent was taken from all the subjects. Pulmonary function tests were recorded using a computerized Spirometer (Spiroexcel). The parameters recorded were forced vital capacity (FVC), forced expiratory volume in 1 s (FEV1), FEV1/FVC, forced expiratory flow (FEF) (25–75%), and FEF rate (FEFR). These were recorded as basal values (before exposure) after 1 month, 3 months, and after 9 months of exposure. The values obtained were compared to the values obtained before exposure to formalin vapors.

Results: It was found that there was a significant decrease in the mean and standard deviation of pulmonary parameters, that is, FVC, FEV1, FEV1/FVC, FEF (25–75%), and FEFR in medical students after 1 month, 3 months as well as 9 months of exposure to formalin vapors.

Conclusion: The study concluded that formalin vapors can affect the pulmonary parameters. The effect can depend upon the duration of exposure. The students exposed to formalin vapors presented with a mixed disorder of both obstructive and restrictive type and showing that there is a definite effect of formalin vapors on lung function tests.

Key words: Lung function test; Formalin; Spirometer; Pulmonary parameters

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