Klobuchar formaldehyde bill clears Senate

WASHINGTON — Legislation sponsored by Sen. Amy Klobuchar that aims to create the toughest standards in the world on formaldehyde levels in wood products passed the Senate today by unanimous consent. 

Klobuchar’s bill seeks to protect consumers from “potentially hazardous levels of the chemical formaldehyde.” Formaldehyde is used as a “chemical intermediary” in many household items, adhesives, solvents and composite wood used in furniture, cabinets, countertops and flooring.

Formaldehyde can be dangerous when concentrated — studies have shown “evidence of a causal relationship between formaldehyde exposure and cancers of the upper respiratory tract.”

The bill, introduced by Klobuchar and Idaho Republican Sen. Mike Crapo in September 2009, would set an emissions cap of 0.09 parts per million, effective in 2013, require third-party testing to prove that the products follow national standards and call for the EPA to work with other federal agencies to monitor imported products. Similar standards are already in place in California.

“The bill will establish national standards that will both protect public health and ensure an even playing field between domestic wood products and foreign imports,” said Klobuchar in a statement.

A companion bill has been introduced in the House.

A representative for Minnesota’s Forest Industries, which employs more than 40,000, said the industry has much to gain if the legislation is successful in setting standards that make domestic products competitive with foreign imports.

“This legislation helps the forest products industry and consumers in our country,” said Wayne Brandt, executive vice president of the Minnesota Forest Industries. 

Lauren Knobbe is an intern in MinnPost’s D.C. bureau.

Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by rich davis on 06/15/2010 - 07:02 pm.

    This bill FAILS to protect anyone! What matters is the formaldehyde concentration in room air. This depends on ventilation rate, temperature, volume of material, and rate of off-gassing. This bill ONLY controls the rate of off-gassing, while ignoring 3 equally important factors. Homes using California Air Resources Board (CARB) Phase 2 compliant material will still exceed California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessments (COEHHA) recommended concentration.

    CARB published a multi-year study Dec 15, 2009 that states:

    “Nearly all homes (98%) had formaldehyde concentrations that exceeded guidelines for cancer and chronic irritation…” The median concentration was 4 times COEHHA’s recommendation.

    Summary: http://www.arb.ca.gov/research/apr/past/04-310exec_sum.pdf
    Report: http://www.arb.ca.gov/research/apr/past/04-310.pdf
    Researcher’s PowerPoint: http://iee-sf.com/resources/pdf/ResidentialVentilation.pdf

    Peer reviewed journal, Synergist’s, cover article February 2010 documents that ‘green’ homes have even higher concentrations of formaldehyde. http://www.aihasynergist-digital.org/aihasynergist/201002?pg=32 Additional scientific information was presented at a conference in Denver in May 2010.

    High levels of formaldehyde were also reported deep in the data tables of the drywall study including the control houses built using USA drywall. Other countries, Canada and Australia, are also having high residential formaldehyde.

    The bill fails to address non-wood product such as fiberglass wall insulation. This is often the single largest source of formaldehyde in homes. Commonly, formaldehyde from wall insulation alone is several times COEHHA’s recommended maximum concentration. Formaldehyde goes right through the drywall like water and the Tyvek prevents any from escaping to the exterior.

    Another unregulated source is bamboo. Bamboo is a grass product opposed to wood. When a formaldehyde resin is used the area is so large this rapidly becomes an issue.

    The bill does level the field, but does NOTHING to protect occupants’ health. For health, regulating the final concentration of formaldehyde in the room air with doors and windows closed at 78 degrees, while recording the high and low outside temperatures is the critical item. This would allow consumers to compare different builders’ products. Builders would have a significant incentive to use material that didn’t use formaldehyde if they had to report the final concentration.

    In California, children under 5 started showing increase rate of cancer and asthma in 1980. That was just 18 months after new permits would require homes to use fiberglass insulation that used a formaldehyde resin. Don’t forget there would be just about an 18-month time lag to build, sell, close, occupy, exposure occupants, and finally seek medical treatment. Most believe formaldehyde cause both cancer and asthma. Unfortunately, this bill will keep the status quo going for several more years.

    Industry was supported this bill because it does nothing significant and will take the pressure off until consumers realize nothing has changed. A bill actually designed to protect the consumer by requiring the formaldehyde concentration not to exceed COEHHA’s or any other reasonable 24 x 7 x 365 exposure would never have the support of industry and therefore never pass despite the decades of data on the topic.

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