EPA to Investigate Formaldehyde Emissions from Pressed-Wood Products

What are the possible risks of formaldehyde emissions from pressed-wood products? The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency wants to find out and is asking interested parties to submit comments, information, and data to determine the extent of the problem and what to do about it. In addition to the 60-day public comment period, EPA has scheduled five public meetings to obtain more input, according to a Nov. 25 press release.

Through this process, the agency will develop a risk assessment on potential adverse-health effects, evaluate the costs and benefits of possible control technologies and approaches, and determine whether action is needed to address any identified risks. The call for comments follows a citizens' petition received under the Toxic Substances Control Act in March 2008 from organizations and individuals concerned about risks from exposure to formaldehyde.

Formaldehyde is commonly used as a preservative and is found in certain pressed-wood products, where it is a component of glues and adhesives. It adds permanent-press qualities to clothing and draperies and helps preserve some paints and coating products.

Formaldehyde is both an irritant and a probable human carcinogen. Attention to the formaldehyde issue significantly increased after Hurricane Katrina when temporary housing for dislocated families in New Orleans allegedly caused illness in many people from formaldehyde emissions in pressed-wood components.

For more information and a list of the scheduled public meetings, go to http://www.epa.gov/opptintr/chemtest/formaldehyde/index.htm.