Are we more at risk from formaldehyde exposure than originally thought? That’s the question being raised by the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Integrated Risk Information System’s (IRIS) draft toxicological profile released June 2. According to published reports, the IRIS review suggests the cancer risk estimate is 10 times more stringent than the estimate given back in 1991.

In addition to lung and other respiratory problems, formaldehyde has been linked to leukemia and nasopharyngeal cancer. The IRIS draft also suggests a link to lymphohematopoietic tumors, which, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) said, “have not been associated with formaldehyde exposures in the toxicology studies.”

Public comments on the draft assessment are due by Aug. 31.

Findings from this review should lead to changes in the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). According to reports, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL) are already circulating a discussion draft of the legislation in Congress to overhaul the TSCA.

In comments made to the Bureau of National Affairs, Rep. Waxman said, “It is clear that the flaws of the Toxic Substances Control Act are one reason that formaldehyde has been allowed to persist in so many uses for so long, despite the clear risks.”

Rep. Waxman chairs the Committee of Energy and Commerce, which voted last month to “favorably report HR 4805” — the Formaldehyde in Composite Wood Products Act — for action by the House of Representatives. Among other things HR 4805 would direct the EPA to establish a national emission standard.

As an industry and as a nation, we need to move forward on this issue. Speak up, and make your opinion count.

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