The EPA in April, 1987, released a new report that concludes that the common chemical, formaldehyde, is "probably a human carcinogen." The agency took seven years to reach this conclusion. The data that they published in their April report had been submitted to the agency by an industrial laboratory, the respected Chemical Industry Institute of Toxicology (CIIT), in 1980. The EPA "tried to bury questions about formaldehyde," says a report in SCIENCE magazine, the voice of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
The EPA estimates that 4662 workers each year will get cancer if they work in an environment contaminated up to the limit currently allowed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which is 3 ppm [parts per million]. In the garment industry alone, 770,000 workers, mostly women, are exposed to fairly high levels of formaldehyde as they press formaldehyde-laden clothes to put "staypressed" creases in chinos, jeans and other clothing.
Another population at risk from formaldehyde is average people living in their homes and mobile homes. The EPA estimates that, at current levels of exposure in typical air in homes, 1170 people die each year from formaldehyde exposure in mobile homes and 630 die in conventional homes.
Original source for this newsletter: Eliot Marshall, "EPA Indicts Formaldehyde, 7 Years Later," SCIENCE,
Vol. 236 (April 24, 1987), pg. 381.
--Peter Montague, Ph.D.
Descriptor terms: formaldehyde; occupational safety and health; indoor air pollution; mobil homes;