Master professionnel « Évaluation et gestion des risques sanitaires liés à l’environnement », Universités Paris V et Paris XI, École nationale de la santé publique (ENSP), Avenue du Pr Léon Bernard, 35043 Rennes cedex
Formaldehyde is an unintentional byproduct of natural processes in homes and industry, particularly the manufacture of many consumer products. Accordingly, exposure is widespread, essentially indoors. At high doses, formaldehyde is a weak genotoxic agent and a human carcinogen that causes nasopharyngeal cancer (NPC). In this paper, we assess the risk of NPC associated with formaldehyde exposure in France. Exposure assessment is based on recent data published by the French Indoor Air Quality Observatory (Observatoire de la aualité de l’air intérieur, OQAI). Characterization of risk using the US EPA unit risk estimates is incompatible with the incidence of NPC observed in France for the past 15 years. These results cast doubt on the appropriateness of using the linear non-threshold dose-response model recommended by the EPA and other institutions to assess the risk of formaldehyde-related NPC.