EPA Rule Targets Formaldehyde Emissions


Under a new federal rule, certain wood product manufacturers in the U.S. and those abroad who sell products in the U.S. will be required to test, certify and label their products as compliant with national formaldehyde emission standards.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says the rule, almost six years in the making, aims to reduce exposure from formaldehyde vapors from various wood products, including hardwood, plywood, medium-density fiberboard, particleboard as well as household and other finished goods containing these products.

Formaldehyde is used as an adhesive in a wide range of wood products, such as some furniture, flooring, cabinets, bookcases and building materials including plywood and wood panels.

Exposure to formaldehyde can cause adverse health effects including cancer; eye, nose and throat irritation; and other respiratory symptoms, according to the EPA.

The rule will go into effect next year.

EPA Authority

The road to the new rule began in 2010 when Congress passed the Formaldehyde Emission Standards for Composite Wood Products Act of 2010 establishing emission standards for formaldehyde from composite wood products.

The law directed EPA to finalize a rule on implementing and enforcing the provisions of the law. However, as the New York Times notes, the agency encountered several roadblocks that slowed its rulemaking process. 

Moreover, the issue was thrust into the national spotlight last year when Lumber Liquidators, a major importer of discount flooring, faced accusations it sold Chinese-made products with toxic levels of formaldehyde.

“Health and safety advocates said the scandal highlighted the federal government’s lack of oversight, particularly for products made overseas,” according to the New York Times.

Under the new rule, composite wood products that are sold, supplied, offered for sale, manufactured, or imported in the U.S. will need to be labeled as TSCA (Toxic Substances Control Act) Title VI compliant.

Exceptions, Third-Party Certifiers

In addition to new requirements for product labeling, recordkeeping and enforcement, the new rule includes certain exemptions for products made with ultra-low formaldehyde or no added formaldehyde resins.

The agency also established testing requirements to ensure that products comply with the standards. The rule establishes a third-party certification program for hardwood, plywood, medium-density fiberboard and particleboard. Eligibility requirements for third-party certifiers and accreditations are also in the final rule.

EPA said it worked with the California Air Resources Board to help ensure the final national rule is consistent with California’s requirements for composite wood products.

For additional information regarding EPA’s action and formaldehyde in general, click here.


Tagged categories: Adhesive; Coatings Technology; Construction chemicals; Enforcement; EPA; Health and safety; North America; Wood; Wood composites

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