Sapien chronicles formaldehyde battle

At ProPublica, Joaquin Sapien tells the story of how Louisiana Republican Sen. David Vitter successfully obstructed the FDA’s attempts to get formaldehyde, which has been linked to leukemia, as a known carcinogen. Right now, it’s still listed as “probable.” The industry’s favorite tool, and the one Vitter employed for them in this case, was to force the EPA into conducting yet another costly, time-consuming study.

The EPA’s chemical risk assessments are crucial to protecting the public’s health because they are the government’s most comprehensive analysis of the dangers the chemicals present and are used as the scientific foundation for state and federal regulations. But it usually takes years or even decades to get an assessment done, or to revise one that is outdated. Often the industry spends millions on lobbying and on scientific studies that counter the government’s conclusions.

Sapien’s history of Sen. Vitter’s stonewalling, as well as his ties to the formadehyde industry, are an excellent example of just how difficult it has been for the EPA to upgrade key risk assessments.

Sapien’s story is well worth reading, but those looking for an overview can also refer to his excellent timeline, that goes from the EPA’s first health assessment in 1989 to Vitter’s demand that an assessment of the chemical be reviewed by the National Academy and his subsequent block of an EPA nomination late last year.

3 thoughts on “Sapien chronicles formaldehyde battle

  1. Avatar photoJESSE JOHN

    Why is Vitter’s former campaign manager and proclaimed very, very best friend, Kurt Engelhardt, orchestrating  the FEMA Formaldehyde Trailer litigation? This judge has handpicked the cases and managed to excuse FEMA from the first bell whether trails; resulting in little chance for the plaintiff’s claims to succeed. Follow the $$$$, Should the plaintiff win, the Formaldehyde Council members, Vitter and his cronies’ bankrolls would suffer. 

  2. Avatar photorich

    So why doesn’t the media educate the public that the consumer can use the same inexpensive ($39) passive ACS badge that the Sierra Club used to discover the FEMA trailers to test the own home?

    If the media covered stories like The California Air Resources Board’s report published December 15, 2009 that states:

    “Nearly all homes (98%) had formaldehyde concentrations that exceeded guidelines for cancer and chronic irritation…”

    Then the public would start testing and the elevated formaldehyde issue would be resolved almost overnight.

    If the outside air is cleanier today because of all the regulations, if fewer people smoke, and if people are more aware of second hand smoke; Why is asthma increasing over the past 3 decades?

    Here in California the asthma levels in children started increasing rapidly in 1980. Why? The California Energy Code was effective for building permits issued on or after July 1, 1978. It takes time to build, sell, close and then the delay period for symptoms to show. Gee that is 1980. As the code was modified it added wall insulation. Quickly we learned about the urea foam insulation and required plastic between it and the inside of the building. But guess what there is no requirement for fiberglass insultation that also off gasses formaldehyde. Then double pane windows were added reducing the ventilation rate. Then came sealing everything with chaulking. The typical home go to the point were it was take 5 to 10 hours to exchange the air one time. This allows the level of toxins to increase. Then came the green movement along with ‘green’ homes. They claim these homes are healthier for the occupants but the study on the subject indicates the opposite.

    Remember it is asthma among young children that increased. These young children spend nearly 24 x 7 in their home. The environmental factor that is causing the increase has to be in their home.

    The Formaldehyde Council claims the typical formaldehyde concentration in homes is 14 ppb. Only if that was still true today the level of asthma would be lower. The CARB study found the typical formaldehdye concentration is 29 ppb for home built 2002-2004. The Synergist study found the typical concentration to be about 75 ppb unless it was a green home then 100+ ppb.

    The prove is also found by ‘fixing’ homes and reducing the formaldehyde concentration. When this has been done all occupants have reported some improvement and many have reported their children are no longer using their inhalers and/or other asthma meds and haven’t had a single asthma attack.

    In older homes it tends to be the furniture. In new homes the wall insulation is the most challenging to deal with and requires fresh air to dilute the toxin.

    The truth will eventually prevail. It just concerns me with the lack of media coverage on something that is so crystal clear.

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