New Rules on Formaldehyde Proposed


Plywood, particle board, adhesives and other building materials made with formaldehyde would face new curbs on emissions under a rule newly proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The rules are consistent with a federal law unanimously passed by Congress in 2010 and align, where practical, with the emission requirements for composite wood products set by the California Air Resources Board, according to EPA.

Composite wood products produced domestically or imported into the United States would be covered under the new rules, the EPA said Thursday (May 30) in a press release.

Harmful Chemical

A colorless, flammable gas, formaldehyde is used in adhesives to make a wide range of building materials and household products. The emitted formaldehyde may be left over from the resin or composite wood-making process or may be released when the resin degrades in the presence of heat and humidity.

Exposure to formaldehyde can cause adverse public health effects, including eye, nose and throat irritation, other respiratory symptoms and, in certain cases, cancer.

“The proposed regulations announced today reflect EPA’s continued efforts to protect the public from exposure to harmful chemicals in their daily lives,” said James J. Jones, EPA’s acting assistant administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention.

“Once final, the rules will reduce the public’s exposure to this harmful chemical found in many products in our homes and workplaces."

Emission Controls

Specifically, the first rule limits how much formaldehyde may be emitted from hardwood plywood, medium-density fiberboard, particleboard and finished goods that are sold, supplied, offered for sale, manufactured, or imported in the United States.

The proposal also includes testing requirements, laminated product provisions, product labeling requirements, chain-of-custody documentation, recordkeeping, a stockpiling prohibition, and enforcement provisions.

The measure includes a “common-sense exemption” from some testing and record-keeping requirements for products made with no-added formaldehyde resins, EPA said.

Third-Party Certification

EPA’s second proposal establishes a third-party certification framework intended to ensure that manufacturers of composite wood products meet the Toxic Substances Control Act formaldehyde emission standards by having their composite wood products certified though an accredited third-party certifier.

The new rule would also establish eligibility requirements and responsibilities for third-party certifiers and the EPA-recognized accreditation bodies that would accredit them.


Congress passed the Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Products Act, or Title VI of the Toxic Substances Control Act, in 2010.

“This robust proposed third-party certification program will level the playing field by ensuring composite wood products sold in this country meet the emission standards in the rule regardless of whether they were made in the United States or not,” the EPA added.


In July 2010, Congress passed the Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Products Act, or Title VI of TSCA, which established emission standards for formaldehyde from composite wood products and directed EPA to propose rules to enforce the act.

The California Air Resources Board approved its airborne toxic control measure to reduce formaldehyde emissions from wood products in April 2007.

EPA says the national rules will also encourage an ongoing industry trend toward switching to no-added formaldehyde resins in composite wood products.


Tagged categories: Adhesive; Coating chemistry; Coatings Technology; Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); Hardwood; Laws and litigation; Regulations; Wood; Wood composites

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