Industry Pressure Delays Release of Formaldehyde-Leukemia Study

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has delayed the release of a study detailing the potential carcinogenic risks of formaldehyde seemingly due to pressure from the chemical industry according to a report from Reuters.

The EPA already describes the chemical, which is used in building materials like plywood and foam insulation, as a “probable” carcinogen, but this new report is expected to update previous findings and provide more detail on formaldehyde’s link to leukemia.

Scientists working on the agency’s Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) completed their research into formaldehyde last year. However, internal communications revealed that EPA officials declined to review the study or be briefed by its experts on the findings.

In their investigation, Reuters found that members of the American Chemistry Council (ACC), the chemical industry’s main lobbying group, met with representatives from the EPA’s Office of Research and Development to pressure the agency into obscuring the connections between formaldehyde exposure and leukemia.

Advocacy groups claim that, by keeping the findings private, the agency is withholding important health information from the public. According to a representative from the Union of Concerned Scientists, a nonprofit science advocacy group, delaying the report fits the agency’s political patterns of restricting public health research. “By sweeping scientific assessments under the rug, EPA fails to fulfill its mission of protecting public health,” said Yogin Kothari, the organization’s senior Washington representative. “The public has the right to know about public health threats.”

For more about regulating the distribution and use of carcinogenic chemicals, read the latest “Notes From the Hill” column by the American Society of Hematology’s Congressional Fellow Catherine Zander, PhD, “The Politics of Banning Toxic Chemicals.”

Source: Reuters, May 24, 2018.