News Brief

Formaldehyde's Rap Sheet Goes Beyond Cancer, Says EPA

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released a draft assessment of the dangers of formaldehyde that finds that pregnant women, children, and asthmatics are particularly susceptible to the health effects of inhaling the chemical.

Formaldehyde was already a known carcinogen; the draft assessment just released by EPA adds information about its non-cancer effects, which include eye, nose, and throat irritation, decreased lung function, decreased immune system function, neurological damage, and reproductive damage.

The assessment will inform the information on formaldehyde in EPA’s Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS), which provides information on the known health risks of over 540 chemicals. EPA surveys the available scientific and medical literature on a given chemical, issuing draft reports for public comment before they become part of IRIS.

Formaldehyde is commonly found in building materials, including in binders used in composite wood products and in some insulation materials (see “All About Formaldehyde”). IRIS is online at

Published June 22, 2010

Wendt, A. (2010, June 22). Formaldehyde's Rap Sheet Goes Beyond Cancer, Says EPA. Retrieved from

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June 25, 2010 - 3:36 pm

Thanks for the brief Allyson. Lots is going on to move formaldehyde out of building materials right now. Formaldehyde has been the binder of choice in fiberglass batt insulation, but that is changing rapidly. Four major fiberglass manufacturers have rolled out formaldehyde free lines in the last couple of years, plus one cotton line (all listed in GreenSpec of course

I explored the potential health impacts of the chemicals in their alternative binders in a blog earlier this month (

And in related news, Congress passed legislation this week limiting formaldehyde emissions in composite wood products (more on this at