In its June 2, 2010, Toxicological Review of Formaldehyde Inhalation Assessment, EPA indicated that formaldehyde is a known human carcinogen. The publicity associated with this assessment has already caught the attention of toxic tort lawyers who believe that formaldehyde exposure cases could arise in the same manner, and with the same proclivity, as benzene litigation.
Formaldehyde, similar to benzene, presents an indoor air issue because of its use in so many applications that we take for granted. Think "new carpet" or "new car" smell. Now substitute "formaldehyde" for "new" and the breadth of potential litigation against a wide array of manufacturers and service providers becomes apparent.
Formaldehyde may also become an additional thorn in the side of heavy industry seeking to renew Title V permits under the Clean Air Act for ambient air pollutants. 42 U.S.C. §§ 7661 et seq.; 40 C.F.R. Parts 70-71. Many combustion sources have formaldehyde emissions, such as compressor stations. Previous experience litigating over the treatment of formaldehyde emissions in Title V permits reveals limited information or experience with technologies or other methods to test for, or ultimately reduce, formaldehyde emissions. EPA's recent assessment now threatens to turn up the heat on formaldehyde. Industry may not like this "new car smell."