On January 21, 2009, Healthy Building News published an article in its "Did You Know" series pointing out that fiberglass batt insulation can release potentially hazardous levels of formaldehyde, a known cancer-causing chemical. The article also noted that an increasing number of batt insulation products are now available with no added formaldehyde.
The article was based upon an HBN research memo also published in January of this year (and updated in March), which reviewed the state of standards and research on fiberglass insulation using phenol-based formaldehyde binders. The HBN memo concluded that formaldehyde releases can reach hazardous levels - even through drywall - and warrant avoidance.
Shortly after HBN published its article, the Formaldehyde Council, Inc. (FCI) - the trade association formed to promote the interests of the formaldehyde industry - published a letter to HBN on its blog attacking HBN’s findings.
In its letter, FCI made many assertions, most notably perhaps, claiming that formaldehyde is only responsible "for the occurrence of a rare cancer tumor" and "only in the worker population." This assertion stands in contrast to the California Air Resources Board assessment which estimates that current formaldehyde exposures in buildings is responsible for about 4,000 excess cases of cancer in California alone.
For HBN's complete point-by-point analysis of the FCI's letter, click here.