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Chemical Regulation

Lawmaker subpoenas US EPA over formaldehyde review

House Democrat claims agency provided useless information to multiple requests this year

by Britt E. Erickson
November 22, 2019

Sheets of composite wood stacked in a pile.
Credit: Shutterstock
House lawmakers are still questioning why the EPA halted a review of the health risks of formaldehyde, which is commonly used in composite wood products.

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), chair of the US House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, issued two subpoenas on Nov. 15 to the US Environmental Protection Agency, seeking answers about why the agency abruptly stopped reviewing formaldehyde under its Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) program. The EPA announced earlier this year that formaldehyde would instead be reviewed under the Toxic Substances Control Act.

House Democrats claim that the EPA completed a draft IRIS assessment in the fall of 2017, showing a link between formaldehyde exposure and leukemia. The EPA, however, did not release that assessment.

Johnson requested information from the EPA several times this year about its decision to halt the formaldehyde assessment. The agency provided insufficient responses every time, she claims. “These subpoenas come after eight months of EPA delays and obfuscation in providing the Committee with information necessary for the oversight of the IRIS program and its review of the chemical formaldehyde,” Johnson writes in a letter to EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler sent with the subpoenas.

In a Nov. 15 statement, the EPA calls the committee’s action “reckless and unjustified.” The agency claims that it has complied with all of the committee’s requests related to the IRIS program.



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