Alternatives to Formalin/Formaldehyde?

Mark Weatherhead weather at
Thu Mar 23 19:15:15 EST 1995

   Recently several of my co-workers and I have become concerned
over the large amounts of formalin preserved samples that we have
to deal with in an average working week.  As most of you know,
Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen/mutagen/teratogen and also causes
lung and skin problems.  While we take precautions in the lab and
handle the samples carefully, it would be preferrable to not have to
use this substance at all.
   I have been told that several countries have banned or severely 
limited the use of Formaldehyde.  If this is true, then what do you
use instead?  We can use IPA or some other alcohol in most cases, but
in situations where tissue weights need to be estimated these
preservatives are inadequate because of lipid loss.  Also fish don't
preserve very well in alcohol - scales and fins and stomach contents
breakdown making identification difficult.
   If you use non-formaldehyde preservatives, or have any other
suggestions or ideas then please email me or post a followup to
this article.  Also, if you live in a country which has banned/restricted
formaldehyde use could you confirm this to me.

Thanks in advance.


(weather at

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