US classifies formaldehyde as known carcinogen

10 June 2011 22:08  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS)--US health regulators now consider formaldehyde to be a known carcinogen, a government agency said on Friday.

Before, regulators listed formaldehyde as reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.

Formaldehyde is used to make urea formaldehyde (UF) resins, which, in turn, are used to make wood products. Formaldehyde itself is made from methanol.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) changed formaldehyde's designation in its 12th Report on Carcinogens (RoC).

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) said the new classification was unfounded.

The World Health Organization (WHO) indicated that normal human exposure does not present a risk of cancer, the ACC said.

Moreover, the department's finding ignored a recent scientific report by the National Research Council, the ACC said.

That report "strongly questioned whether the scientific evidence supports the claim of human carcinogen for [leukaemia]", said ACC chief executive Cal Dooley.

“Because formaldehyde is used in many products - from building materials to pharmaceuticals - this unscientific decision by HHS could risk thousands of US jobs," Dooley said in a statement.

"That is why this decision by the department is such an egregious contradiction of President Obama’s pledge in a March 9, 2009, executive order that ‘Science and the scientific process must inform and guide decisions of my administration…'", Dooley said.

The National Research Council report reviewed yet another one - an assessment of formaldehyde that was made by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The EPA's assessment, in turn, was used by the HHS when it declared formaldehyde a known carcinogen.

In its report, the National Resource Council said that the EPA did not adequately support the causal determinations for various leukaemias and lymphomas.

However, the EPA "provides sufficient evidence of a causal association between formaldehyde and cancers of the nose, nasal cavity and nasopharnyx", the council said.

In fact, the Department of Health and Human Services found enough evidence showing that formaldehyde causes nasopharyngeal and  sinonasal cancers as well as myeloid leukaemia.

Regarding myeloid leukaemia, the department said it is uncertain how formaldehyde causes it. Instead, the department based its finding on epidemiologic data.

The department also said that "styrene is reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen".

For more on methanol visit ICIS chemical intelligence

By: Al Greenwood
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