The American Chemistry Council (ACC), representing a significant portion of the U.S. chemical industry, has taken legal action against the Biden administration regarding the use of the chemical formaldehyde. The lawsuit targets the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) over the EPA’s draft assessment of formaldehyde published in 2022. The ACC alleges “numerous” violations of the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA), which requires independence during the peer review process.
ACC has been expressing concerns for over a year about the EPA and NASEM’s failure to comply with FACA legal requirements. The complaint outlines the lack of adherence to the law and essential standards for scientific integrity, independent peer review, and governmental transparency.
In April 2022, the EPA released a draft assessment linking formaldehyde to various health issues, including cancer, respiratory problems, and reproductive toxicity. Following a 60-day comment period, the assessment entered a peer review process overseen by NASEM. The ACC, along with other industry groups and lawmakers, has criticized the EPA’s handling of the assessment.
If the formaldehyde assessment is finalized, it would mark the first official designation of formaldehyde as a known human carcinogen, potentially leading to increased litigation risk and sweeping regulations or bans on its use.
ACC emphasizes the importance of formaldehyde in various industries, such as medical devices, vaccines, wood products, agriculture, and electric vehicles. They claim that decades of scientific data support the safe use of formaldehyde at current regulatory levels.
The group alleges conflicts of interest and improper influence in the peer review process. NASEM’s appointment of members and utilization of staff with apparent conflicts of interest with the EPA’s IRIS program have raised concerns. ACC urges NASEM to ensure a fair and balanced committee, transparency, and careful consideration of available scientific information during the review.
Overall, if the EPA imposes stringent regulations on formaldehyde usage, it could have significant economic consequences, potentially affecting one million American jobs and $70 billion in payroll costs, according to the industry group.
The EPA has yet to respond to the legal complaint.