EPA to Study Formaldehyde Use in Pressed Wood Products

EPA officials announced that they are launching a broad effort to gain a greater scientific understanding of the potential health risks of formaldehyde’s use in pressed wood products.

Through this process, the agency will develop risk assessments on the potential adverse health effects, evaluate the costs and benefits of possible control technologies and approaches, and determine whether EPA action is needed to address any identified risks, officials said.

The agency plans to issue an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR) in fall 2008. The agency is pursuing this course of action following review of a petition submitted under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) by the Sierra Club, a number of other environmental organizations, as well as a large number of private citizens. The petition requested that EPA adopt nationally a California regulation to control formaldehyde emissions from composite wood products and extend the rule to include composite wood products in manufactured homes.

Exposure to formaldehyde can cause watery eyes, headaches, depression and cancer, Sierra Club officials said. People with existing respiratory conditions such as asthma and emphysema have an increased risk of reacting to formaldehyde, which can leach out from plywood, particleboard and fiberboard used in manufactured housing.

Becky Gillette, national formaldehyde campaign Director for the Sierra Club, said, "While disappointed that EPA set an improperly high standard to begin rulemaking, Sierra Club and the other petitioners applaud EPA's alternative approach to addressing the challenge of formaldehyde. We will actively support and monitor EPA's work on this important issue. For the health of all Americans, we need to move now."

For more information, visit http://www.epa.gov/oppt/chemtest/pubs/sect21.htm.

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