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EPA releases draft formaldehyde risk evaluation

The American Feed Industry Association raises concerns about the EPA's draft.

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its draft risk evaluation for formaldehyde under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) for public comment and peer review. The evaluation preliminarily finds that formaldehyde poses an unreasonable risk to human health, highlighting uncertainties in the findings and acknowledging that these risks may not apply universally.

Formaldehyde is ubiquitous, being released by both natural and human-related activities, including decay, combustion, and a variety of consumer products. The EPA's evaluation notes that exposure to high levels of formaldehyde, whether through inhalation or skin contact, can lead to health issues, including respiratory problems, sensory irritation, reproductive toxicity, and cancer. The evaluation also considers the impact of formaldehyde on the environment, emphasizing its transient nature in water, sediment, and soil.

In response to the EPA's draft risk evaluation, the American Feed Industry Association (AFIA) and the American Chemistry Council (ACC) have expressed strong concerns. AFIA's Vice President, Leah Wilkinson, highlighted the safe and effective use of formaldehyde in the U.S. animal food industry over 40 years, emphasizing its role in controlling food safety pathogens and its potential to mitigate the African swine fever (ASF) virus. The AFIA, in collaboration with other animal agriculture groups and the ACC, is opposing the EPA’s efforts to further regulate formaldehyde.

The ACC's Formaldehyde Panel echoed these concerns, citing the insufficiency of EPA’s peer review and the unworkable suggested workplace limits. They emphasized the essential role of formaldehyde in various industries and warned of potential severe restrictions or bans on formaldehyde manufacturing and its downstream uses if the EPA continues its current path.

Following the release of the Federal Register notice, the EPA will accept public comments on the draft risk evaluation for 60 days via docket EPA-HQ-OPPT-2023-0613 at The evaluation will also undergo review by the Agency’s Science Advisory Committee on Chemicals (SACC), with a virtual public meeting scheduled for May 20-23, 2024. The EPA will use feedback received from public comments and the SACC to inform the final risk evaluation.

The industry response and the forthcoming public comment period and peer review indicate that the evaluation of formaldehyde's risks is expected to be a topic of significant discussion and engagement in the coming months.

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