EPA moves toward finalizing formaldehyde risk report

U.S. EPA today released a draft risk assessment of formaldehyde, moving the agency closer to setting national emission standards for the widely used chemical.

EPA's draft report evaluates the toxicity of inhaling formaldehyde. An expert panel convened by the National Academy of Sciences is slated to review the report, and EPA will accept public comments on the assessment until Aug. 31.

"Releasing the draft assessment for review will help EPA and others to determine the level of risk it poses to Americans' health," EPA said in a press release. "EPA undertook this assessment because there have been a number of potentially significant new studies published since EPA's last review of formaldehyde toxicity."

James Jones, EPA's deputy assistant administrator, told House lawmakers in April that formaldehyde is a hazardous chemical. "Reducing formaldehyde emissions in pressed-wood products should be an important public health goal," he said (E&E Daily, April 29).

EPA began its current risk assessment in 1997. Jones said the agency plans to finalize the assessment in late 2011. Depending on the comments the agency receives, EPA expects to begin regulating formaldehyde within one to three years.

The chemical came under increased scrutiny after reports of Gulf Coast hurricane victims getting sick from breathing formadehyde fumes in federally issued trailers. In 2008, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a report finding that many of those trailers had levels of formaldehyde that could affect health.

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