RESTON, VA – On April 8, 2011, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) released its much-anticipated review of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) 2010 draft IRIS risk assessment on formaldehyde, which listed formaldehyde as a “known” human carcinogen. EPA’s draft assessment attempts to identify the level at which formaldehyde presents a potential risk for adverse effects on human health.

The NAS was critical of EPA's final assessment. The independent review by leading scientists found that the EPA assessment failed to support its conclusions that formaldehyde causes respiratory cancers, leukemia, and other health problems, including asthma. The NAS report also indicated that EPA “overstated” its conclusions that formaldehyde damages the nervous system and questioned the EPA link to reproductive effects.

“This long-awaited independent review by leading scientists confirms that EPA’s 1,000-page assessment does not prove that formaldehyde causes leukemia or other serious health problems,” said Dick Titus, executive vice president, Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association (KCMA). “For years, materials essential to the construction of affordable, durable, and fashionable storage cabinetry sought by consumers have been unfairly described as unsafe based on the same science as was rejected by the NAS review. The report’s finding supports what the KCMA has been saying for years; that the low levels of formaldehyde typically found in cabinets to which most people are exposed are not high enough to cause harm. Further, the kitchen is the best ventilated room in the home, which reduces any risk even further.”

Since 2006, KCMA has had a certification program in place that demonstrates and encourages low-emitting levels of formaldehyde in cabinetry. KCMA’s Environmental Stewardship Program (ESP) now requires that composite wood used in the construction of ESP certified cabinetry must be compliant with emission levels set in 2009 by the California Air Resources Board (CARB). Those emission levels are the lowest in the world. Currently, 140 companies and brands, out of an estimated 17,000 U.S. cabinetmaking businesses, meet the stringent ESP requirements for certification.

The EPA conclusion that formaldehyde can irritate eyes, noses and throats has long been known. It also might possibly cause cancer in the nose and upper throat based on studies of workers exposed to high levels over a period of time. As the NAS report states, formaldehyde is an important industrial chemical used to produce a wide array of vital materials and it is generated naturally.

EPA proposes setting a cancer risk value significantly below the levels that occur naturally in the environment. For example, the World Health Organization reports people produce formaldehyde in their bodies and exhale formaldehyde in the range of less than 0.8 to 8 parts per billion. EPA’s proposed cancer risk value of 0.008 ppb would suggest that human breath poses an unacceptable risk of cancer; yet experience and science tell us that could not possibly be the case.

The Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association, headquartered in Reston, VA, is the principal trade association in the United States for manufacturers of kitchen cabinets, bath vanities, decorative laminate products and suppliers to the industry. The KCMA is committed to excellence in manufacturing through continued quality, advocacy and leadership. The ESP program was launched in 2006 and is audited each year by an independent third-party environmental auditing organization. KCMA also administers an ANSI-approved performance testing and certification program for cabinets.

SOURCE: Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Assn.

Have something to say? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.