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Updated Assessment of Available Science Further Supports that Formaldehyde Does Not Cause Leukemia

WASHINGTON (January 22, 2018) – A detailed review that integrates the latest science on formaldehyde and cancer demonstrates no link with leukemia. Published in the peer-reviewed journal Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology, the review highlights the recent research conducted to address recommendations identified by a special committee of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in reviewing the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) 2010 draft Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) assessment of formaldehyde. The newly published comprehensive review arrives at a conclusion that directly contradicts EPA’s previous conclusion that formaldehyde causes leukemia.

NAS provides independent advice on scientific and technical matters to Congress, EPA and other federal agencies. The draft IRIS assessment was soundly criticized in 2011 by the NAS, which called for significant improvements to the draft formaldehyde assessment and to the IRIS review process. In the six years since the NAS report, significant new epidemiological, toxicological and mechanistic studies have been published, filling critical knowledge gaps and addressing many of the questions raised by the NAS committee. 

“Some of the NAS’ criticisms of the formaldehyde draft IRIS assessment centered on scientific transparency and the use of the best available science,” said Kenneth A. Mundt, Ph.D., lead author of the paper and Health Sciences Global Practice Network Leader for Ramboll. “Accurate evaluation of formaldehyde as a potential human carcinogen and determining the levels at which formaldehyde from occupational, residential and consumer products might cause disease are absolutely critical, especially considering its production by humans as part of their normal biological processes. Central to this challenge is proper evaluation of the weight of the entire body of scientific evidence.”

Much of the research generated in response to the NAS recommendations has been supported by the Foundation for Chemistry Research & Initiatives and members of the American Chemistry Council (ACC) Formaldehyde Panel. The ACC Formaldehyde Panel is a strong proponent of generating and using the best available science and weight of evidence approaches to understanding important human health questions related to chemicals and their regulation. Formaldehyde is an important and widely used industrial chemical that is naturally produced in our bodies and is also naturally present in many foods and beverages we consume. It also is one of the single most studied chemicals.

“The scientific literature is clear,” continued Mundt. “Integration of the currently available human, animal and mechanistic evidence consistently shows a lack of a causal association between formaldehyde exposure and leukemia.”

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