Workplace exposures Chemical Manufacturing

Chemical manufacturers cite analysis questioning link between formaldehyde exposure and leukemia

Photo: Ramboll Environ

Washington – The American Chemistry Council is calling attention to a reanalysis of data linking formaldehyde exposure to leukemia, saying the new findings “call into question the validity” of recent assessments used by regulatory agencies to determine occupational exposure limits.

The Department of Health and Human Services added formaldehyde to its “Report on Carcinogens” in June 2011.

The reanalysis, conducted by researchers from the environmental consulting company Ramboll Environ, questions a 2010 paper that examined occupational exposure to formaldehyde among Chinese workers.

The researchers analyzed the 2010 data in addition to previously unavailable data on worker exposure to formaldehyde released by the National Cancer Institute. They found that the data used in the original paper showed that blood cell counts and chromosomal abnormalities in formaldehyde-exposed workers had a stronger correlation to gender and cigarette smoking than leukemia. They also took issue with the lack of a follow-up study to investigate whether any of the formaldehyde-exposed workers developed leukemia.

“Taken as a whole, the epidemiological evidence from the most recent analyses and follow-up of available cohorts provides little if any evidence of a causal association between formaldehyde exposure and AML (acute myelogenous leukemia),” the reanalysis states.

“The original paper failed to meet its own data quality standards and the scientific standard of reproducibility,” American Chemistry Council Formaldehyde Panel Senior Director Kimberly White said in a May 2 press release. “Relying on it consequently led to unsubstantiated regulatory decisions and unwarranted outcomes. The EPA and other agencies evaluating chemical risk from exposures must consider the entire weight of evidence on formaldehyde when setting exposure limits.”

The reanalysis study was published online May 2 in the Journal of Critical Reviews in Toxicology.

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