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Press Room:  For Immediate Release 
Explore, Enjoy and Protect the Planet

July 9, 2010

Contact: Oliver Bernstein, Sierra Club, 512.477.2152

President Obama Signs Landmark Formaldehyde Legislation Enacting National Standards

New Law Will Protect Americans from Toxic Substance

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Sierra Club applauds President Obama and the bipartisan members of Congress who delivered legislation that will protect consumers by enacting national standards for formaldehyde in composite wood products. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) co-sponsored the Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Act, and Congresswoman Doris Matsui (D-CA) and Congressman Vernon J. Elhers (R-MI) had co-sponsored the House companion bill. House Committee on Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) were also instrumental in passing this legislation. President Obama signed the bill this week. President Obama signed the bill this week.

"Without the action of Congress, better regulation of formaldehyde could have taken many years longer," said Becky Gillette, Formaldehyde Campaign Director for the Sierra Club. "This doesn't make up for the illnesses of tens of thousands of families housed in Katrina trailers with high formaldehyde levels. But it is encouraging to see that sometimes our government works for the people instead of for the profits of big corporations. Congress has taken a major step to protect people from unsafe levels of formaldehyde."

The standards signed into law match those recently adopted by the California Air Resources Board (CARB), which dramatically reduce formaldehyde off-gassing that can cause watery eyes, headaches, depression, memory problems and cancer. People with existing respiratory conditions such as asthma and emphysema are especially susceptible to formaldehyde’s toxic effects.

Composite wood products are made from wood pieces, particles or fibers bonded together with resin. Most contain some formaldehyde, and the new law will significantly reduce formaldehyde levels in products such as furniture, cabinets, shelving, countertops, flooring and molding.

"This legislation demonstrates how a bipartisan collaborative effort can help ensure health and safety for all Americans," said Leslie Fields, National Environmental Justice and Community Partnerships Director of the Sierra Club. "Industry, community activists and the environmental community worked hand in hand to ensure proper standards for these products will be promulgated for the future."

The Sierra Club and a broad coalition of groups and citizens concerned about public health submitted a petition to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) asking that the Agency adopt the more protective formaldehyde standards already in place in California and extend them to manufactured housing. Key coalition partners included the United Steelworkers and the National Center for Healthy Housing. As the first organization to publicize the toxicity of formaldehyde-laden emergency housing after Hurricane Katrina, the Sierra Club has taken a lead role in fighting for better disaster assistance and stronger regulations.

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