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Health and Environment

Dimethylformamide (DMF)


Acute (Short-Term) Health Effects

  • The primary organ affected by acute exposure to dimethylformamide is the liver. Inhalation may also damage the kidneys, cause stomach pain, nausea, and vomiting, or irritate the nose and throat.
  • Dermatitis and irritation of the eyes may result from acute contact with dimethylformamide.
  • Exposure to concentrations of dimethylformamide at 500 parts per million (ppm) is immediately dangerous to life and health.

Chronic (Long-Term) Health Effects

  • Dimethylformamide may be a carcinogen. Human studies have identified increased rates of testicular cancer in humans exposed to dimethylformamide. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies dimethylformamide as a Group 2B carcinogen; it is possibly carcinogenic to humans.
  • Dimethylformamide may be a teratogen (reproductive hazard). Animal studies have documented teratogenic effects, including decreased fetal weight and increased spontaneous abortions. A human study of individuals exposed to multiple chemicals suggests that dimethylformamide may increase the rate of spontaneous abortions.
  • Chronic exposure to dimethylformamide may also result in liver damage or digestive problems.

Exposure Routes

Worker Health

  • Facilities using dimethylformamide must minimize worker exposure and take precautions to avoid fires.
  • Use dimethylformamide in closed systems. If a closed production system is infeasible, facilities need to enclose operations and use local exhaust ventilation. Where the potential for exposures to dimethylformamide exceed 10 ppm use a Mine Safety and Health Administration/National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health-approved supplied-air respirator with a full facepiece.
  • Take precautions to avoid dimethylformamide contact with skin and eyes. Workers need to wear solventresistant gloves and clothing. If dimethylformamide contacts skin, immediately wash the exposed area.
  • Dimethylformamide is a combustible liquid it is flammable when exposed to heat or flame. Poisonous gases, including toxic fumes of nitrogen oxide, form during fires.

Public and Ecological Health

While the workplace is the most likely source of exposure to dimethylformamide, it has been found in wastewater and the ambient air.

  • Dimethylformamide has been detected in wastewater effluent from sewage treatment and manufacturing plants.
  • Dimethylformamide has been detected in the ambient air. For example, it was found at a concentration of 8 parts per billion in Lowell, Massachusetts.

Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), 1999, "Chemical Profile for N,N-Dimethylformamide (CAS Number: 68-12-2)" (New York: EDF see webpage:http:/www.scorecard.org/chemicalprofiles/html/dimethyl_formamide.html); Richard J. Lewis, Sr. (ed.), 1993, Hazardous Chemicals Desk Reference (third edition) (New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold); New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services, 1996, "Hazardous Substance Fact Sheet: Dimethylformamide" (Trenton, New Jersey see webpage: http://www.state.nj.us/health/eoh/rtkweb/rtkhsfs.htm); and U.S. EPA, Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards, 1998, "N,N-Dimethylformamide" (Washington, D.C.: U.S. EPA see webpage: http://www.epa.gov/ttn/uatw/hlthef/diforma.html).