A crucial report into the dangers of formaldehyde—found in building materials such as plywood and foam insulation—has been suppressed by the chemical industry. The US's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has delayed the release of the papers that now links the chemical to leukaemia as well as other cancers.
Top EPA officials have refused to review the study—which means it can't be released to the public—following intensive lobbying by the industry's representative group, the American Chemistry Council (ACC).
Although formaldehyde has been linked to several cancers in the past, the council was especially worried about the latest evidence that it could cause leukaemia, a cancer of the blood.
The news agency, Reuters, that discovered the delay, suspects pressure has also come directly from the business-friendly White House that has previously criticised the EPA for a report on the contamination of public water supplies from chemicals used in the manufacture of Teflon and fire-fighting agents. Again, the EPA blocked the publication of the report after a White House aide said it would have caused "a public relations nightmare."
The EPA has been working on the latest report for eight years after the National Academy of Sciences had criticized it for failing to draw "clear links" between the chemical and leukaemia, although it accepted it could cause nose and throat cancers.
When the EPA presented a draft version of the report last January, the ACC said that the leukaemia connection was "scientifically indefensible".