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Formaldehyde: The Real Story

Process Irregularities & Bias Found in EPA’s Draft Formaldehyde IRIS Assessment

FOIA Request Identifies — in EPA’s Own Words and Emails — Concern About Lack of Reform and Failure to Address Previous NASEM Recommendations Prior to Release of Latest Draft Formaldehyde Assessment

Year after year, industry has repeatedly called on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reform its Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) program before issuing another draft formaldehyde assessment. Still, the IRIS program remains deficient.

A Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request has now validated what the troubled history of the draft formaldehyde IRIS assessment has long indicated—despite calls from industry and scientific experts, the EPA’s next draft assessment on formaldehyde will likely, again, fail to meet adequate standards for scientific rigor and impartiality.

Public documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) reveal a troubling pattern of process irregularities, bias, and conflicts of interest — demonstrating the need for greater scrutiny and transparency.

Chemistry Lab with Teal Beakers

What ACC Is Doing Now

Until EPA corrects the process errors and produces a document that meets scientific standards worthy of public confidence, ACC is urging EPA to take immediate steps to ensure the draft formaldehyde IRIS assessment isn’t used as a risk communication tool, to guide regulations, or to set policy at any level of government, in addition to:

  • Imploring EPA to conduct its own investigation to maintain the integrity of its process to assess chemicals and ensure an unbiased formaldehyde IRIS assessment.
  • Calling on EPA to release the charge questions guiding NAS’s review of the draft formaldehyde IRIS assessment to the public to facilitate greater review transparency.
  • Urging NAS to conduct a thorough investigation of the ad-hoc committee charged with reviewing EPA’s draft formaldehyde IRIS assessment to ensure an independent, objective review process, including:
    • A reset of the panel nomination process after a public comment on the charge questions; and
    • Removal of any potentially impartial panel members and NAS staff
  • Calling on the Office of Management and Budget to conduct a formal interagency review for the draft formaldehyde IRIS assessment before it is released.
Chris Jahn , President & CEO, ACC
The IRIS program is not fulfilling its mission. The program has long had deficiencies, especially as it relates to formaldehyde. ACC has consistently called upon EPA to improve the design and conduct of its chemical assessments.

What ACC Found

Advocating for Conclusions Not Supported by the Weight of Evidence

Decisions Based on Politics, Not Science

See evidence:

Upending Precedent

Premature Transmission of Documents

See evidence:

Why It Matters

  • A robust review of formaldehyde must objectively evaluate the best available science.
  • IRIS assessments can lead to unnecessary public alarm if they fail to undergo a “reality check” to ensure the risk values make sense.
  • Formaldehyde is a critical facet of everyday life and a core building block of the U.S. chemical industry. Restrictive regulation of formaldehyde will cause harm up and down the supply chain—including to consumers and producers.
  • Formaldehyde supports employment for nearly 1 million workers and generates over half a trillion dollars in sales in the United States.
  • Put simply, smart policymaking should create solutions, not problems.
Dr. Kimberly Wise White , Vice President of Regulatory & Scientific Affairs, ACC
Time and time again, we have tried to provide solutions to help the program enhance its scientific integrity and transparency. Our hope is this analysis sheds light on ways the IRIS program can restore its credibility.

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