WASHINGTON, D.C. - On June 24, 2010, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation limiting the amount of formaldehyde emissions from composite wood products to 0.09 parts per million as of January 1, 2012; the U.S. Senate passed the measure on June 14. Just a few days earlier, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a draft revised assessment of the health effects of formaldehyde exposure, strengthening the list of possible adverse effects from acute exposure and stating that there is a causal relationship between formaldehyde exposure and various types of cancer.
Formaldehyde is often used in the production of resins, which are then used in the manufacture of particle board, plywood and other composite woods; as raw materials in surface coatings and adhesives; and in the manufacture of plastics and plasticizers. Formaldehyde is also used in the manufacture of dyes, cosmetics, textiles, disinfectants, animal feeds, perfumes, vitamins and explosives.
Exposure to elevated levels of formaldehyde is known to cause health effects such as watery eyes, burning in the throat, nausea and asthma attacks. The EPA's new draft assessment also includes discussion of immune system effects and neurological damage and suggests that these risks may be particularly acute in pregnant women, children and asthmatics. The new EPA draft also states that there is evidence of a casual relationship between formaldehyde exposure and cancer.