Club Petition Prods EPA Action on Formaldehyde
In response to a petition from the Sierra Club, 24 other organizations, and more than 5,000 individuals representing every state in the nation, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) agreed on June 23 to conduct a four-part investigation of formaldehyde in homes, schools, and offices throughout the country.
"We hope the EPA will act as quickly as possible and show some urgency because there are many products on the market with unsafe levels of formaldehyde," says Sierra Club activist Becky Gillette, below, a national leader in the fight against formaldehyde poisoning. "Tens of thousands of people have been affected."
The Sierra Club was the first organization to discover the toxicity of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) trailers in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, and since then has taken a lead role in fighting for better disaster assistance and emergency housing, some of which is pictured in photo at top. Gillette spearheaded the Club's effort to test FEMA trailers for toxicity after hearing about colleagues in federally-issued trailers coming down with nosebleeds, hacking coughs and headaches. She has since testified before Congress in Washington, D.C., taken the fight to the national level, and the new EPA agreement is a direct result of her efforts over the last two-plus years.
"Formaldehyde poisoning isn't limited to FEMA trailers," Gillette says. "We're seeing the problem pop up in classrooms, RVs, other kinds of manufactured housing, and conventional homes that use cheap particle board cabinets or carpeting containing formaldehyde. So this decision is a no-brainer."
Dissapointingly, the EPA declined to extend nationally the tougher formaldehyde standards already in place in California. "California did lots of research to develop standards," Gillette says, "and it would have been more expedient to extend them nationally. Still, the decision to undertake rulemaking is a very positive move, and more than we'd come to expect under this administration. We will actively support and monitor EPA's work on this important issue."
Read more about the Sierra Club's work on toxics.
Top photo by Mary DeVany.