June 23, 2008
Becky Gillette, Sierra Club, (479) 253-6963
Oliver Bernstein, Sierra Club, (512) 477-2152
EPA Agrees to Study Methods to Reduce Formaldehyde in Homes, Offices, and Schools
Agency investigation comes in response to Sierra Club, petitioners' pressure
Washington, DC: In response to a petition from Sierra Club, 24 other organizations and more than 5,000 individuals representing every state in the country, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) agreed to conduct a four-part investigation of formaldehyde in our homes, schools and offices.
Exposure to formaldehyde can cause watery eyes, headaches, depression and cancer. 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.
The investigation will include:
1. Issuing an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in the Fall of 2008 to investigate whether and what type of regulatory or other action might be appropriate to protect against health risks posed by formaldehyde emitted from pressed wood products;
2. Undertaking an external peer review on formaldehyde’s cancer and other health risks, and evaluating risks and options available under the Toxic Chemical Substances Act (TCSA);
3. Surveying industry, developing an exposure assessment and conducting a risk assessment on respiratory irritation;
4. Cooperating with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on its anticipated revisions of the manufactured housing standards.
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."
Today’s decision accompanied a decision by EPA to extend nationally the tougher formaldehyde standards already in place in California. These more stringent standards dramatically reduce formaldehyde off-gassing from three types of composite wood products: hardwood plywood, particleboard, and medium density fiberboard. These products are used in most furniture and wood building materials.
As the first organization to discover the toxicity of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) trailers, the Sierra Club has taken a lead role in fighting for better disaster assistance and emergency housing. As part of these efforts, the Sierra Club and a broad coalition of groups and citizens concerned about public health submitted a petition to the EPA, asking that the EPA adopt the more protective formaldehyde standards already in place in California and extend them to manufactured housing. Under the Toxic Substances Control Act, EPA had to accept or deny the petition by June 21, 2008.
Visit www.sierraclub.org/toxics for more information.