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Something's in the Air in Lewiston: Study Will Examine High Levels of Formaldehyde

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It's not out of the ordinary for cities such as Detroit or Seattle to register high formaldehyde levels in the atmosphere. But when the relatively small city of Lewiston hit similar levels—as high as 20 parts per billion—the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency agreed to fund an inquiry into exactly what's going on in north-central Idaho.

The Lewiston Tribune reported Thursday that the 20 ppb level registered in Lewiston exceeds the 8 ppb required to warrant further study, triggering the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry to suggest just such an analysis. An Idaho Department of Health and Welfare study found that a lifetime exposure to the high levels could produce 80 additional cases of lung cancer per million people.

The study will cover both the twin cities of Lewiston and Clarkston, Wash. and will be conducted by the Nez Perce Tribe and Washington State University. 

"It's surprising for a little town like Lewiston," WSU civil and environmental engineering professor Tom Jobson told the Tribune. "It's not super high, but it's surprising given the context of how many people live in Lewiston."