Formaldehyde is now classified as a carcinogen. But, despite the growing scientific consensus about how formaldehyde can affect human health, it remains to be seen if the studies will lead to tighter U.S. formaldehyde regulations.
When Sen. David Vitter persuaded the EPA to agree to yet another review of its long-delayed assessment of the health risks of formaldehyde, he was praised by companies that use or manufacture a chemical found in everything from plywood to carpet. As long as the studies continue, the EPA will still list formaldehyde as a “probable” rather than a “known” carcinogen, even though three major scientific reviews now link it to leukemia and have strengthened its ties to other forms of cancer.
Dr. Howard Frumkin, the embattled director of a little-known but important division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has been reassigned to a position with less authority, a smaller staff and a lower budget. For the past two years he had endured scathing criticism from Congress and the media for the CDC’s poor handling of public health problems created by the formaldehyde-contaminated trailers that the government provided to Hurricane Katrina victims.