OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards and regulations. Our interpretation letters explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances, but they cannot create additional employer obligations. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed. Note that our enforcement guidance may be affected by changes to OSHA rules. Also, from time to time we update our guidance in response to new information. To keep apprised of such developments, you can consult OSHA's website at https://www.osha.gov.

August 7, 1987

Mr. John F. Murray
The Formaldehyde Institute, Inc.
1330 Connecticut Avenue, N.W., #300
Washington, D.C. 20036

Dear Mr. Murray:

This is in response to your letter regarding cancer warning labels for formaldehyde and products containing formaldehyde.

Although the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is conducting rulemaking with regards to formaldehyde and a final rule is due Fall 1987, it would be inappropriate to stay enforcement activities at this time for labeling requirements under the Hazard Communication Standard. The Hazard Communication Standard requires employers to evaluate the chemicals they produce and the information concerning their hazards be transmitted to affected employers and employees within the manufacturing sector.

Presently, there are several valid, positive studies indicating human carcinogenicity. Accordingly, label warnings stating the carcinogenic potential of formaldehyde is required under the Hazard Communication Standard and therefore is not, as you state, an ad hoc enforcement action by the Agency.

In addition, enforcement of labeling requirements under the Hazard Communication Standard will not prejudge the pending rulemaking. OSHA presently does not expect any final rule for formaldehyde to significantly change the information already required on existing labels.

If I can be of further assistance, please feel free to contact me again.


John A. Pendergrass
Assistant Secretary