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NEW EPA RULE
FAVORS PLYWOOD MAKERS
IGNORES LEUKEMIA LINK

Pushing aside new scientific studies of possible health risks, the U.S.Environmental Protection Agency approved an air pollution regulation thisyear that could save the wood products industry hundreds of millions ofdollars.

Critics say the new rule may violate the Clean Air Act. Theregulation addresses emissions of formaldehyde, a chemical used by plywoodmanufacturers and other industries. Exposure to formaldehyde may causecancer and lead to nausea and eye, throat and skin irritation; new studiesindicate it might also cause leukemia in humans.

The EPA rule, signed inFebruary, did not mention the possible link to leukemia. Instead, theagency relied on a risk assessment generated by a chemical industry-fundedthink tank, and adopted a standard for exposure based on a cancer riskmodel that is about 10,000 times less stringent than the level previouslyused by the EPA in setting standards for formaldehyde exposure.

Ultimately, 147 or more of the 223 wood-products plants nationwide couldavoid pollution-control requirements. The exemptions will save theindustry as much as $66 million annually for about 10 years. Theregulation was ushered through the agency by senior officials withprevious ties to the timber and chemical industries.

The officials saythey advocate a balanced approach to environmental regulation. Theircritics say science and public health are losing out.

Written by: Alan C. Miller and Tom Hamburger


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