WASHINGTON — The EPA has concluded that formaldehyde is carcinogenic when inhaled by humans, a finding that could lead to stringent new regulations of the widely used chemical.

Used in the production of countless consumer products, formaldehyde attained a degree of national infamy after Hurricane Katrina when some of those living in the 120,000 trailers provided by FEMA as temporary housing for storm victims reported respiratory and other health problems after prolonged exposure to the chemical, which is contained in wood products in the trailers.

The EPA’s draft assessment of the health perils of formaldehyde, released Wednesday, is now subject to 90 days of public comment and a nine-month peer review by a panel of the National Academy of Sciences, on its way likely to forming the basis for new regulation of formaldehyde levels in myriad products.

“There is sufficient evidence of a causal relationship between formaldehyde exposure and cancers of the upper respiratory tracts, with the strongest evidence for nasopharyngeal and sino-nasal cancers,” the 1,043-page draft assessment concludes. “There is also sufficient evidence of a causal association between formaldehyde exposure and lymphohematopoietic cancers, with the strongest evidence of Hodgkin lymphoma and leukemia, particularly myleloid leukemia.”

The EPA document also identifies seven other non-cancer health effects from formaldehyde inhalation: sensory irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat; upper respiratory tract pathology; pulmonary function; asthma and atopy; neurologic and behavioral toxicity; reproductive and developmental toxicity; and immunological toxicity.

Betsy Natz, executive of the Formaldehyde Council, representing leading formaldehyde producers and users in the United States, took issue with EPA’s findings, contending that there is not a demonstrable link between formaldehyde and leukemia, or a causal link with nasopharyngeal and sino-nasal cancers.

“Any regulatory decision based on incomplete information could cause significant harm to an industry that supplies so many products critical to the home and commercial building, automotive and aerospace industries, as well as defense-related applications and vaccines used worldwide to prevent polio, cholera, diphtheria and other major diseases,” Natz said.