Government Says Formaldehyde Causes Cancer

The US government released a report this month that officially lists formaldehyde as a carcinogen.

The chemical, which is commonly found in interior building products such as particle board, and in nail salons and mortuaries, has long been considered a threat to human health. But industry groups successfully applied pressure to keep formaldehyde out of the National Toxicology Program’s Report on Carcinogens (ROC) for years, according to the New York Times.

The Safer Chemicals Healthy Families Coalition delivered a letter to Secretary Kathleen Sebelius of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services applauding her decision to release the report.

"It’s a sad commentary on the state of politics in Washington that it requires courage and determination for agency officials merely to do their jobs, apply the law and follow the science," the group says the Coalition. "Yet that was clearly the case with the ROC and we want you to know that we recognize it.

They claim the American Chemistry Council has fought "tooth and nail" against destignating any chemical as harmful. As a result, the US has fallen behind other developed nations in setting standards for public health protections.

The National Toxicology Program says people can lower their exposure to formaldehyde by using lower-emitting pressed wood products, such as those that are labeled CARB (California Air Resources Board) Phase 1 or Phase 2 compliant, or made with ULEF (ultra-low-emitting formaldehyde) or NAF (no-added formaldehyde) resins.

The ROC also lists styrene as a risk to human health. Styrene is an industrial chemical used to make polystyrene and resins, such as reinforced plastic and rubbers.

Though not as prevalent as formaldehyde, styrene is of special concern to workers who make certain car parts, boats, bathtubs and shower stalls. It is also found, although to a lesser extent, in building materials that outgas, tobacco smoke and photocopiers. 

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