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Reducing Formaldehyde Exposure

More than four years after the Katrina Hurricane, which devastated the Gulf Coast, the Sierra Club is still working with residents affected by formaldehyde contamination in their government-issued trailer.

It was after widespread complaints from residents who experiences symptoms of formaldehyde exposure that the Sierra Club began testing trailers and advocating for change which would help ensure that such poisonings would never happen again - in trailers or anywhere else.

Senators Kobuchar and Crapo Introduce Bill Establishing National health standards for Formaldehyde in Composite Wood Products

Most composite wood (made from wood pieces, particles or fibers bonded together with resin) contains some formaldehyde. Composite wood is used in common household products such as furniture, cabinets, shelving, countertops, flooring and molding.

This bill would establish national emission standards under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) for formaldehyde in new composite wood products (secondhand products and antiques are exempted). Reducing emissions from composite wood products protects not only those who purchase composite wood products but also the workers who manufacture the products.

The standards would match those recently adopted by the California Air Resources Board (CARB). The California standards are being phased in over a three-year period and apply to the sale of new particleboard, medium-density fiberboard and hardwood plywood, as well as any products containing these materials.

Under the proposed federal legislation, by January 1, 2012, these products sold in the U.S. would have to meet a formaldehyde emission standards of about 0.09 parts per million. Collectively, these would be the toughest standards in the world.

Read More: Senator Klobuchar's press release

EPA Agrees to Study Methods to Reduce Formaldehyde in Homes, Offices, and Schools
Agency investigation comes in response to Sierra Club, petitioners' pressure.

In response to a petition from Sierra Club, 24 other organizations and more than 5,000 individuals representing every state in the country, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) agreed to conduct a four-part investigation of formaldehyde in our homes, schools and offices.
Sierra Club press release
EPA decision

Sierra Club Factsheet: Toxic Trailers?
Tests Reveal High Formaldehyde Levels In FEMA Trailers

Sierra Club testing in 2008 showed that 88 percent of FEMA trailers tested in Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama have levels of formaldehyde above the recommended limit of 0.10ppm for short term exposure. Using limits recommended for long term exposure, none of the trailers were safe. This exposes tens of thousands of occupants to the potential for health impacts including watery eyes, burning sensations of the eyes, nose, and throat, coughing, wheezing, nausea, and skin rashes. Especially vulnerable are mothers, children and the elderly, who tend to spend more time in the trailers. Download the factsheet.

Image by Flickr user Ordered Chaos with permission under Creative Commons.

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