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EPA pursues stricter regulation of formaldehyde amid House subpoena

EPA pursues stricter regulation of formaldehyde amid House subpoena
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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced Friday that it would consider adding formaldehyde to a list that allows the agency to more carefully monitor and restrict its use.

The substance, noted for causing health problems like leukemia, is working its way through the processes of the Toxic Substances Control Act, which allows the EPA to require reporting, record-keeping, testing and restrictions on dangerous substances.

The move comes amid a brewing conflict between the EPA and House Science, Space and Technology Committee, which subpoenaed the agency last month following questions about conflicts of interests from EPA employees that slowed further study of the health impacts of formaldehyde.

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EPA officials called the subpoenas "reckless and unjustified" in November.

In December 2018, the EPA removed formaldehyde and nine other chemical assessments entirely from its program outlook. It was later reported that David Dunlap, a top EPA official overseeing the agency’s research office, failed to recuse himself from overseeing the study despite his prior role as a chemicals expert for Koch Industries.

Emails showed Dunlap, who leads the EPA’s Office of Research and Development, continued to participate in conversations about formaldehyde despite his previous ties to companies that produce it, and despite alerting ethics officials he planned to recuse himself. 

The committee’s subpoena asks for a transcribed interview with Dunlap. The agency had previously made him available for a staff briefing, but not an interview.