The Senate is currently considering a bill that would establish federal standards for the levels of formaldehyde allowed in Chinese composite wood products, like drywall and fiberboard, used in American housing construction.
Drywall from China first came under scrutiny earlier this year, when contaminated drywall was discovered to be in more than 60,000 new homes in at least a dozen states. The drywall emitted toxic levels of chemical pollutants like sulfur into the homes, which reeked of rotten eggs and was potent enough to corrode pipes and turn silver jewelry black. Homeowners were forced to abandon these un-sellable homes, though many were offered mortgage abatements by their lenders when they did so.
Formaldehyde, present in the adhesive resins used to manufacture pressed wood products, is a toxic and carcinogenic chemical that can cause coughing, skin rashes, headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and nosebleeds at levels above 0.1 parts per million. (To the chagrin of many of us, formaldehyde can be found in concentrations higher than this in new clothing, including children’s clothing, and textiles such as bed sheets.)
The Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Act, would establish national emission standards under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) for formaldehyde in new composite wood products, but secondhand products and antiques are exempt.
Under the proposed legislation, these products sold in the U.S. would have to meet a formaldehyde emission standards of about 0.09 parts per million by Jan. 1, 2012 – making the regulations the toughest in the world. –HousingWire
I’m a little concerned that the “toughest” formaldehyde standard in the world is to be only 0.01 parts per million lower than the level at which the chemical causes nosebleeds and vomiting. But I’ll take regulation over no regulation. Maybe next the Senate can introduce a bill to regulate acceptable formaldehyde limits in products like clothing and bedding that come into direct contact with our skin (there’s no set limit as of yet!).