Benchmark Dose Risk Assessment for Formaldehyde Using Airflow Modeling and a Single-Compartment, DNA-Protein Cross-Link Dosimetry Model to Estimate Human Equivalent Doses


* Address correspondence to Paul M. Schlosser, CIIT Centers for Health Research, PO Box 12137, RTP, NC 27709;


Formaldehyde induced squamous-cell carcinomas in the nasal passages of F344 rats in two inhalation bioassays at exposure levels of 6 ppm and above. Increases in rates of cell proliferation were measured by T. M. Monticello and colleagues at exposure levels of 0.7 ppm and above in the same tissues from which tumors arose. A risk assessment for formaldehyde was conducted at the CIIT Centers for Health Research, in collaboration with investigators from Toxicological Excellence in Risk Assessment (TERA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) in 1999. Two methods for dose-response assessment were used: a full biologically based modeling approach and a statistically oriented analysis by benchmark dose (BMD) method. This article presents the later approach, the purpose of which is to combine BMD and pharmacokinetic modeling to estimate human cancer risks from formaldehyde exposure. BMD analysis was used to identify points of departure (exposure levels) for low-dose extrapolation in rats for both tumor and the cell proliferation endpoints. The benchmark concentrations for induced cell proliferation were lower than for tumors. These concentrations were extrapolated to humans using two mechanistic models. One model used computational fluid dynamics (CFD) alone to determine rates of delivery of inhaled formaldehyde to the nasal lining. The second model combined the CFD method with a pharmacokinetic model to predict tissue dose with formaldehyde-induced DNA-protein cross-links (DPX) as a dose metric. Both extrapolation methods gave similar results, and the predicted cancer risk in humans at low exposure levels was found to be similar to that from a risk assessment conducted by the U.S. EPA in 1991. Use of the mechanistically based extrapolation models lends greater certainty to these risk estimates than previous approaches and also identifies the uncertainty in the measured dose-response relationship for cell proliferation at low exposure levels, the dose-response relationship for DPX in monkeys, and the choice between linear and nonlinear methods of extrapolation as key remaining sources of uncertainty.