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ACC’s Formaldehyde Panel Calls for More Public Engagement Following NASEM Open Meeting on Draft IRIS Assessment

The NASEM Committee Should Have Considered Full Public Comments from Stakeholders and the Scientific Community on the EPA’s 2022 Draft Formaldehyde Assessment

Charlotte Anthony

WASHINGTON (October 13, 2022) — Today, the American Chemistry Council’s (ACC) Formaldehyde Panel (the Panel) issued a statement following the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) Committee’s open session to review the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) 2022 draft formaldehyde Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) assessment. 

Before this meeting, the Panel sent Dr. Jonathan Samet, the Committee Chair, a letter articulating some of the scientific flaws with the 2022 draft IRIS assessment. The 2022 draft IRIS assessment ignores dozens of scientific studies published over the last 30 years that show there are defined safe thresholds for formaldehyde exposure. When the EPA released its initial draft IRIS assessment in 2010, it was widely criticized by the scientific community, including NASEM, for its lack of transparent, consistent, scientific standards. The EPA's decision to ignore updated science that addresses many of the criticisms that NASEM raised prompts additional concerns for the 2022 draft IRIS assessment.

“This important meeting was an opportunity for NASEM to draw on the vast scientific expertise that exists from stakeholders on formaldehyde,” said Sahar Osman-Sypher on behalf of the Panel. “Unfortunately, NASEM’s broken process cut public participation short and failed to hear all of the critical, nuanced scientific developments that must be understood on this issue. We renew our request for NASEM to host an information gathering session and provide at least four hours for public comment in order to allow scientists who have been studying formaldehyde science for decades to provide the committee with an in-depth understanding of the literature and to allow a more substantive discussion.”

“Furthermore, while we appreciate that NASEM provided some time beyond the scheduled 30-minutes, the way they did so was not designed to solicit meaningful public input. Public commenters were rushed with merely three minutes to make oral comments, denied the opportunity to use presentation slides to facilitate communication of information in a virtual format, and placed at 5pm on the agenda at the end of an already long day of meetings for the committee members,” added Osman-Sypher. “All of these limitations hampered the ability of commenters to effectively communicate the complex scientific data that needed to be relayed and understood by the NASEM committee members. Nonetheless, it was clear by the oral comments that were made that EPA’s draft 2022 formaldehyde assessment fails to rely on the best available science, incorporate a weight of evidence approach or properly integrate evidence streams putting in question the overall conclusions of the assessment.” 

NASEM is responsible for conducting the highest-quality independent work and reviews. The lack of updates from the last assessment coupled with NASEM’s truncated public comment process have sparked doubts for a transparent process that fully considers the science. 

The limited opportunities for public participation in this meeting and previously denied requests for more time for public comments are the latest troubling developments in a series of continued and compounding process irregularities for developing and reviewing the EPA’s 2022 draft formaldehyde IRIS assessment.

American Chemistry Council

The American Chemistry Council’s mission is to advocate for the people, policy, and products of chemistry that make the United States the global leader in innovation and manufacturing. To achieve this, we: Champion science-based policy solutions across all levels of government; Drive continuous performance improvement to protect employees and communities through Responsible Care®; Foster the development of sustainability practices throughout ACC member companies; and Communicate authentically with communities about challenges and solutions for a safer, healthier and more sustainable way of life. Our vision is a world made better by chemistry, where people live happier, healthier, and more prosperous lives, safely and sustainably—for generations to come.

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