Formaldehyde -- Facts Versus Rhetoric

Fri Apr 4, 2008 3:23pm EDT

* Reuters is not responsible for the content in this press release.

WASHINGTON--(Business Wire)--
MHARR issued the following:

   The Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform (MHARR)
has noted that recent media reports concerning formaldehyde vapor in
emergency housing provided to Gulf Coast hurricane victims by the
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) have tended to omit
important facts concerning that substance and its impact on human
health that are revealed by numerous scientific and medical studies.
The public, consumers and decision-makers at all levels of government
should have access to these facts in order to fairly and properly
assess the use of formaldehyde-emitting materials, which are present
in building products (such as plywood, particleboard, cabinets and
carpeting) used in virtually all residential construction in the
United States.

   Formaldehyde is a colorless gas composed of carbon, hydrogen and
oxygen. It is present in every cell of the human body and in the
atmosphere. All living organisms rely on formaldehyde as a building
block for the synthesis of more complex molecules. Because of its
importance in such metabolic processes, formaldehyde is naturally
present in the human body, with concentrations of approximately 2.5
parts per million (ppm) in the blood.

   The fact that formaldehyde is a normal component of human
metabolism has continually been ignored in congressional proceedings,
press reports and even in communications by the Centers for Disease
Control (CDC) and other federal agencies. Because formaldehyde, like
alcohol, has a tendency to evaporate from the bloodstream into exhaled
breath, there are measurable amounts of formaldehyde in human breath
at all times. These levels are the result of the normal amounts of
formaldehyde present in the blood rather than external exposure. In
the same way, then, that alcohol contained in the breath is a reliable
indicator of blood alcohol levels (i.e., the basis for the commonly
used "breathalyzer" test), the same is the case with formaldehyde. In
a 2005 study (Berthold Moser, et al., published in Respiratory
Physiology & Neurobiology, Vol. 145, Issues 2-3, February 2005),
researchers measured the amount of formaldehyde in the breath of 344
healthy men and women. The results of this study are significant since
it is now being claimed that formaldehyde concentrations equivalent to
normal levels emitted in human breath are capable of producing adverse
effects. In the Moser study, the median level of formaldehyde in human
breath was 4.3 parts per billion (ppb) with levels of 6.3 ppb, 40 ppb
and 73 ppb of the 75th, 97.5th and maximum percentiles, respectively.
Given this data, it is troubling that CDC has recently advocated
quickly relocating residents from FEMA emergency manufactured homes
that have tested formaldehyde levels below that which many people
naturally exhale as a result of their own metabolism.

   Formaldehyde levels in manufactured homes have been regulated by
the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) under specific
product-based standards (0.2 ppm for plywood and 0.3 ppm for
particleboard) for nearly 25 years. In that time, by its own
acknowledgment, HUD has received very few formaldehyde-related
complaints from the millions of residents of HUD-labeled manufactured
homes across the United States. The successful long-term track record
of these HUD standards and the manufactured homes produced in
compliance with the standards, together with the available but
under-reported scientific data in this area, should caution against
any rush to judgment on this matter.

   The Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform is a
Washington, D.C.-based national trade association representing the
views and interests of producers of federally regulated manufactured
housing.

Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform
Mark Weiss, 703-509-9489

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