Formamide has been proposed as an alternative solvent to water, perhaps with the ability to support life with alternative biochemistries to that currently found on Earth. It forms by the hydrolysis of hydrogen cyanide. With a large dipole moment, its solvation properties are similar to those of water.
Formamide has been shown to convert to traces of guanine upon heating in the presence of ultraviolet light.
Formamide is moderately irritating to the eyes, skin and mucous membranes. Inhalation of large amounts of formamide vapor may require medical attention. It is also a teratogen. Formamide has been shown to exhibit hematoxicity in animals and is considered hazardous by prolonged exposure through inhalation, oral intake and dermal absorption. Formamide should never be handled without proper safety attire including gloves and goggles.
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^Vimal K. Kamineni; Yuri M. Lvov; Tabbetha A. Dobbins (2007). "Layer-by-Layer Nanoassembly of Polyelectrolytes Using Formamide as the Working Medium". Langmuir. 23 (14): 7423–7427. doi:10.1021/la700465n. PMID17536845.