International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) - Summaries & Evaluations

(Group 3)

For definition of Groups, see Preamble Evaluation.

VOL.: 63 (1995) (p. 409)
CAS No.: 98-01-1
Chem. Abstr. Name: 2-Furancarboxaldehyde

5. Summary and Evaluation

5.1 Exposure data

Furfural is produced commercially by the acid hydrolysis of pentosan polysaccharides from non-food residues of food crops and wood wastes. It is used widely as a solvent in petroleum refining, in the production of phenolic resins and in a variety of other applications. Human exposure to furfural occurs during its production and use, as a result of its natural occurrence in many foods and from the combustion of coal and wood.

5.2 Human carcinogenicity data

No data were available to the Working Group.

5.3 Animal carcinogenicity data

Furfural was tested for carcinogenicity by oral administration in one study in mice and one study in rats. In mice, it increased the incidence of hepatocellular adenomas and carcinomas in males and of hepatocellular adenomas and forestomach papillomas in females. Male rats had a low incidence of cholangiocarcinomas, which occur rarely. In a two-stage assay on mouse skin, furfural had weak initiating activity.

5.4 Other relevant data

Furfural is extensively absorbed and rapidly eliminated after inhalation by humans and rats. Furfural in air is also absorbed dermally by humans. Repeated exposure of hamsters to furfural by inhalation severely damages the olfactory epithelium. Repeated oral administration to rats causes liver necrosis and cirrhosis.

Neither chromosomal aberrations nor sister chromatid exchanges were observed in rodents treated with furfural in vivo in a single study.

Gene mutation (in a single study), sister chromatid exchange and chromosomal aberrations were induced in mammalian cells in vitro. Sex-linked recessive lethal mutations were induced in insects. Furfural induced weak or no mutagenicity in bacteria but damaged DNA in vitro.

5.5 Evaluation

There is inadequate evidence in humans for the carcinogenicity of furfural.

There is limited evidence in experimental animals for the carcinogenicity of furfural.

Overall evaluation

Furfural is not classifiable as to its carcinogenicity to humans (Group 3).

For definition of the italicized terms, see Preamble Evaluation.


Last updated 05/27/1997

    See Also:
       Toxicological Abbreviations
       Furfural (ICSC)
       Furfural (WHO Food Additives Series 30)
       Furfural (WHO Food Additives Series 42)
       Furfural (WHO Food Additives Series 46)
       FURFURAL (JECFA Evaluation)