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Policy

Formaldehyde Linked To Cancer In Humans

by Glenn Hess
June 7, 2010 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 88, Issue 23

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Credit: Dreamstime
Credit: Dreamstime

Formaldehyde is carcinogenic when inhaled by humans, EPA concludes in a draft toxicological assessment published last week. “There is sufficient evidence of a causal relationship between formaldehyde exposure and cancers of the upper respiratory tracts, with the strongest evidence for nasopharyngeal and sino-nasal cancers,” the agency says. “There is also sufficient evidence of a causal association between formaldehyde exposure and lymphohematopoietic cancers, with the strongest evidence of Hodgkin’s lymphoma and leukemia, particularly myeloid leukemia,” EPA adds. The 1,043-page document will now be peer reviewed by an expert panel convened by the National Academy of Sciences, which will have nine months to submit its analysis to the agency. The Formaldehyde Council, an industry trade group, says it strongly disagrees with EPA’s conclusion that there is a demonstrable link between formaldehyde and cancer. “Many scientists agree that at the low levels of formaldehyde to which people are typically exposed, there is essentially no risk since the body handles low doses every day,” says Betsy Natz, the council’s executive director.

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