Formaldehyde Joins List of Carcinogens

Common chemical styrene added to suspected category
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 11, 2011 10:17 AM CDT
Formaldehyde, Styrene Join List of Known and Suspected Carcinogens
A hair dresser in Brazil straightens a customer's hair. OSHA has previously warned that the Brazilian Blowout product has too-high levels of formaldehyde.   (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

The government has declared formaldehyde to be a carcinogen, and it says the common chemical styrene—used in everything from plastic cups to bathroom stalls and boats—is on the list of suspected cancer triggers, reports Bloomberg. Consumers should do what they can to steer clear, but the risks are far greater for those who work with the materials on an industrial scale, say in manufacturing plants, notes the New York Times. Six other agents also made the list of known or suspected carcinogens, and the government report lays out fact sheets on them here. The Washington Post offers a quick summary.

Formaldehyde is the most familiar item on the list, found in products ranging from plywood (you can look for a ULEF label, for ultra low-emitting formaldeyde) to hair straighteners. The chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society offered this after seeing the report: “I see no problem with Styrofoam cups. If I were using nail polish or nail polisher remover, I would try to get formaldehyde-free versions of those, which are available." (Cell phones, too? A WHO panel thinks so.)

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