For years, the chemical industry has been winning a political battle to keep formaldehyde from being declared a known carcinogen.
The industry’s chief lobby group, the American Chemistry Council, has persuaded members of Congress that the findings of both the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Health and Human Services were wrong and should be reviewed by the National Academy of Sciences.
In 2011, the academy did indeed criticize the EPA’s report on formaldehyde for being unclear. The chemical industry then used that critique to delay dozens of other ongoing evaluations of potentially toxic chemicals.
But on Friday, the academy issued a second report, which found in effect that government scientists were right all along when they concluded that formaldehyde can cause three rare forms of cancer.
“We are perplexed as to why today’s report differs so greatly from the 2011” report, Cal Dooley, president and chief executive officer of the American Chemistry Council, said in a statement titled “The Safety of Formaldehyde is Well-Studied and Supported by Robust Science.”
Part of the disparity is that in the 2011 report, Congress asked the academy only to critique the EPA’s draft assessment rather than evaluate the dangers of formaldehyde itself. The panel concluded that the EPA’s report was too long, repetitive and lacked explanation.
But after reviewing the scientific evidence itself, the academy concluded on...