Regulations are going into force that are long overdue – they set standards on formaldehyde emissions from commonly used wood products, such as plywood and particleboard.
Congress passed legislation in 2010, the Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Products Act, that requires the EPA to set standards as well as a third party auditing system to make sure they are enforced.
In 2011, the US government officially listed formaldehyde as a carcinogen. Action has been held back for many years because of lobbying from the chemical industry. States have been taking the lead on banning chemicals, such as bisphenol A (BPA), cadmium, formaldehyde, and chlorinated tris.
Since all new regulations go through the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs before being finalized, there’s a long lag time before they are approved.
The bill directs EPA to develop rules so to ensure the use of "ultra low-emitting formaldehyde resins" and to track products through their supply chains.
Formaldehyde emissions come from resins used to bind composite woods, used in countertops, cabinets and furniture. It is also in textiles and even personal care products, like shampoo.
Johnson & Johnson recently said they would remove these carcinogenic chemicals from lotions and adult toiletries by 2015.
Brominated Flame Retardants Banned
In related news, more than 160 countries agreed to phase out brominated flame retardants at the recent Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants. Over the years, the 179 countries that participate have banned 23 chemicals.
However, the US is one of a few countries that does not participate in the Stockholm Convention.
Flame retardants are in a vast range of products including insulation, upholstery, bedding and electronics. They are in many infant and toddler products, such as polyurethane foam in items like car seats, breast feeding pillows, changing pads and bassinet mattresses.
Because flame retardants degrades very slowly and can travel in wind and water, they have accumulated over decades in the food web. The chemical is found in the blood of most people and animals. It can interfere with normal functioning of hormone systems and has severe adverse effects on children’s development.
"The U.S.’s failure to ratify the Stockholm Convention is sadly due to the inability of lawmakers to take the first step – fixing the nation’s own broken domestic law for chemicals,"
says Baskut Tuncak, an attorney with the Center for International Environmental Law.
Because lawmakers have repeatedly failed to fix the 1976 U.S. Toxic Substances Control Act, the EPA has its hands tied in restricting hazardous chemicals. Brominated flame retardants are on EPA’s list of chemicals of concern, but it can’t be banned without changes to the law.
The Safe Chemicals Act has been re-introduced in the Senate by Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY), which would make the necessary changes, "enabling the U.S. to ratify the Stockholm Convention and re-emerge as a leader in global efforts to improve chemical safety," says the Center for International Environmental Law.