Current status: 

On March 15th, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) took a significant step forward in releasing a draft risk evaluation for formaldehyde. This ubiquitous chemical found in many household products and industrial materials has long been scrutinized for its potential health effects. These effects include respiratory concerns, skin irritation, reproductive toxicity, and even cancer. This evaluation is part of the agency’s ongoing efforts to assess the potential risks posed by various chemicals under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and to ensure that chemicals in commerce do not pose an unreasonable risk to human health or the environment. As noted in our prior blog post, this is a major step forward in the EPA’s plans for execution on a number of required actions for risk management under the TSCA Lautenberg Act of 2016. 

Findings:  

The draft evaluation finds that formaldehyde exposure poses an unreasonable risk to human health, particularly for: 

  • Workers who may inhale the chemical or come in skin contact with formaldehyde-containing materials. 
  • Individuals who frequently use certain consumer products containing formaldehyde. Common examples include but are not limited to glues, adhesives, lawn and garden products, and personal care products.  

While the draft indicates that these risks may not apply to everyone and acknowledges uncertainties in the findings, it also highlights the potential risks from formaldehyde exposure. 

Why is the Evaluation Significant? 

  • Protecting Public Health: By conducting a thorough assessment of formaldehyde risks, the EPA can provide valuable insights into how exposure to this chemical may impact human health. This information can inform public health initiatives, regulatory decisions, and risk management strategies aimed at minimizing exposure and protecting vulnerable populations. 
  • Regulatory Decision-Making: The draft evaluation serves as a crucial step in the regulatory process under TSCA. It provides stakeholders with an opportunity to review and comment on the EPA’s findings before finalizing the risk assessment. These comments, along with additional scientific input, will inform the agency’s final decision on whether formaldehyde poses unreasonable risks and thereby warrants regulatory action via risk management rules. 
  • Industry Implications: For industries that utilize formaldehyde in their products and processes, the draft evaluation signals the potential for regulatory changes and compliance requirements. Companies may need to reassess their manufacturing practices, product formulations, and risk mitigation measures to align with evolving regulatory standards. 

What can you do? 

The EPA is seeking public comment on the draft evaluation until May 14, 2024. This is your chance to get involved and provide your valuable feedback by: 

  • Reading the EPA’s materials: The EPA website provides the draft evaluation and other resources about formaldehyde and its associated risks. 
  • Submitting a comment: Share your thoughts and insights regarding the draft evaluation with the EPA. You can submit comments electronically through the EPA website or by mail. 
  • Staying informed: The draft evaluation will undergo peer review in May 2024. Once the comment period ends and the draft revisions are completed, the EPA will issue a finalized version of the risk evaluation and proceed to the risk management step.  

The Key Takeaway:  

The EPA’s draft risk evaluation raises concerns about formaldehyde by evaluating its potential health effects and exposure pathways to inform decision-making process and promote proactive risk management measures. You can get involved today by understanding the implications and participating in the public comment process. 

Published: March 22, 2024