Concerns over emissions from formaldehyde in pressed-wood products have been building for many years. High formaldehyde concentrations in trailers provided through FEMA to Hurricane Katrina refugees brought broader attention to the issue.
The state of California addressed the issue in part by issuing new rules that were adopted April 18, 2008, and began going into effect Jan. 1, 2009. The US EPA is just beginning to look into the issue formally, in response to a citizens' petition received nearly a year ago that asked the agency to adopt California's regulations.
As part of its task, the agency is asking for public comment on the risks involved, the scope of the problem, and potential solutions. EPA already acknowledges that formaldehyde, which is widely used in many products, is an irritant and probable human carcinogen.
A 60-day comment period began Dec. 3, 2008, with EPA's publication of its Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in the Federal Register, and will end Feb. 2, 2009. Public meetings are being held:
- Jan. 8, 2009: Research Triangle Park, NC
- Jan. 13: Portland, OR
- Jan. 15: Chicago, IL
- Jan. 26: Dallas, TX
- Jan. 29: Washington, D.C.
A starting point for information on formaldehyde, the citizens' petition, and EPA efforts (including the Federal Register notice) is: