Agri-Pulse: Opinion: It’s time for EPA to encourage scientific input, not shut it out
It may be easy to overlook chemicals’ critical role in our lives, but make no mistake: the nation depends on the chemical sector. Safe drinking water, plentiful food supply, abundant energy and life-saving medicines—these are just a few examples of essential products that depend on chemicals.
Formaldehyde, a naturally occurring substance found within all living things, is a common denominator for critical industries across the economy—from agriculture to construction, health care, aerospace and more. Consider, for example, that formaldehyde is an essential disinfectant and sterilizer in agricultural production, helping American families access safe meat and poultry products. Formaldehyde helps combat outbreaks of highly contagious viruses that threaten animal health, such as African Swine Fever (ASF), which could cost the U.S. economy nearly $50 billion in the event of an outbreak.
In any industry, effective regulation helps establish safe, sustainable business practices. When government chooses to limit legitimate dialogue, it often does more harm than good.
Unfortunately, such is the case with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed assessment for formaldehyde within its Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) program, which was released for public comment in April 2022. With the formaldehyde assessment totaling more than 2,000 pages, it is simply unreasonable to expect engaged stakeholders to provide constructive comments on the assessment within a 60-day comment period.
To that end, we’re discouraged that EPA rejected calls to extend the public comment period from a broad coalition of stakeholders seeking adequate time to thoroughly review and provide input on the assessment. Additional time and consideration are essential, especially considering that the assessment will inform future regulations capable of disrupting critical supply chains.
Leaders in both parties—and both chambers of Congress—have demonstrated growing interest in ensuring EPA’s IRIS program and its draft formaldehyde assessment possess a high standard of scientific and regulatory integrity.
Democratic legislators Reps. Joyce Beatty (OH) and Sanford Bishop (GA) requested that EPA allow greater time for interagency review of the draft assessment—particularly from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA), two agencies most familiar with formaldehyde’s agricultural applications.
Led by Rep. Mike Carey (R-OH), a group of eight congressional Republicans initially raised concerns in April that the draft assessment was “rushed” and “without the benefit of the best available science.” These concerns were echoed by the Taxpayers Protection Alliance in an April opinion piece and by Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) in a March letter to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) and EPA.
Beyond lawmakers, several associations representing vital sectors of the economy, including the American Veterinary Medical Association, U.S. Poultry & Egg Association, National Pork Producers Council, National Turkey Federation and American Forest & Paper Association, have implored EPA to extend public comment—but, unfortunately, EPA has refused.
We support a robust review of formaldehyde that objectively evaluates the best available science. An IRIS program grounded in scientific integrity would welcome and encourage legitimate stakeholder input and debate—not shut it out.
Absent transparency, objectivity and thorough review, the draft formaldehyde IRIS assessment could lead to serious consequences for independent businesses, consumers and the U.S. economy at large. We’re calling on EPA to recognize its responsibility in putting forward an assessment that is scientifically sound and worthy of public confidence.
This piece is signed by American Chemistry Council, American Feed Industry Association, National Turkey Federation, National Chicken Council, National Pork Producers Council, and U.S. Poultry & Egg Association.