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US EPA issues draft risk assessment for use of formaldehyde as a pesticide under FIFRAqrcode

Apr. 23, 2024

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Apr. 23, 2024

On April 19, 2024, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is releasing its draft risk assessment for formaldehyde and paraformaldehyde under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) for public comment. The FIFRA draft risk assessment identifies risks to human health and the environment from the pesticidal uses of formaldehyde and describes some of the sources of uncertainties in EPA’s findings.

Formaldehyde is registered under FIFRA to disinfect various agricultural premises and equipment such as citrus packing houses, egg hatcheries, poultry and swine confinement buildings, and mushroom houses; as a preservative to extend the shelf life of industrial and household consumer products such as laundry detergents, automotive cleaning products, and household cleaners; and in industrial oil and gas injection water to prevent microbial contamination. There is also a special local needs (SLN) registration for the use of formaldehyde to control nematodes, insects, and fungus on ornamental flower bulbs in Washington State.

Paraformaldehyde, which releases formaldehyde, is registered under FIFRA to sterilize laboratory facilities and equipment and to disinfect leaf cutting bee nest materials. Paraformaldehyde is also registered to eliminate odors in unoccupied vacation homes and trailers during the off season and various storage areas in occupied homes.

Formaldehyde is found nearly everywhere. People and animals produce and release formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is produced when organic material, including leaves, plants, and woodchips, decay. Formaldehyde is also produced and released into the air when things burn, such as when cars emit exhaust, when furnaces and stoves operate, and through forest fires, burning candles, and smoking. Finally, formaldehyde is used to make many products other than the pesticidal products evaluated in this assessment, including composite wood products and other building materials, plastics, paints, adhesives, and sealants. Over time, formaldehyde may be released from these products, and people may inhale it.

Because formaldehyde comes from many sources, people are routinely exposed to formaldehyde in indoor and outdoor environments, often from more than one source at a time.

High levels of exposures to formaldehyde can cause health problems when inhaled or absorbed into the skin. Inhaling high levels of formaldehyde for a short period of time can cause sensory irritation such as eye irritation. Inhaling formaldehyde for longer periods of time can damage the lungs and increase risk of developing asthma and allergy-related conditions, sensory irritation, reproductive toxicity, and cancer. Skin contact with products containing formaldehyde can also cause allergic reactions.

EPA found that workers who may be exposed to formaldehyde used to preserve cleaning products are at risk from inhaling formaldehyde after it is released into the air or by making skin contact with the preserved materials. EPA also found that workers who may use formaldehyde or paraformaldehyde to fumigate various agricultural, commercial, industrial, or institutional areas are at risk of sensory irritation from inhaling formaldehyde and allergic reactions of the skin.

Additionally, EPA found that consumers who use automotive cleaning products and household cleaners that are preserved with formaldehyde are at risk of sensory irritation and allergic reactions of the skin and at an increased risk of developing certain types of cancer. However, a person’s risk from these products depends on how long and how frequently the products are used, and in many cases, exposures from these products are at the same or lower levels than exposures from other sources of formaldehyde in the home such as candles or cooking.

EPA also evaluated formaldehyde’s impact on the environment and found the potential for risk to terrestrial organisms from the registered pesticidal uses of formaldehyde and paraformaldehyde to fumigate various agricultural, commercial, and industrial areas. In addition, it is possible that uses to treat ornamental bulbs could result in exposures to terrestrial and aquatic environments that are of concern. EPA is asking for more information on this use of formaldehyde to treat ornamental bulbs to refine this risk conclusion. There is low potential for risks to aquatic organisms for the other pesticidal uses of formaldehyde.

Next Steps

EPA is accepting public comments on the FIFRA draft risk assessment for 60 days via docket EPA-HQ-OPP-2015-0739 at www.regulations.gov.

Formaldehyde is concurrently undergoing review under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) risk evaluation process. The TSCA draft risk evaluation is currently available for public comment and will also be reviewed by the Agency’s Science Advisory Committee on Chemicals (SACC), with a virtual public meeting scheduled from May 20-23, 2024.

Although the SACC will not review the FIFRA risk assessment, EPA will use feedback received from public comments and the SACC to inform the final FIFRA assessment.

Read EPA’s FIFRA Risk Assessment for Formaldehyde

Source: U.S. EPA


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