EPA to Publish Final Formaldehyde Emissions Rule
December 6, 2016 •
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will soon publish in the Federal Register a final rule that limits formaldehyde emissions from composite wood products and establishes a process by which companies will use third parties to certify compliance with the formaldehyde emission standards. EPA’s announcement follows a four-month long delay since its pre-publication notice on July 27. The pre-publication notice was mostly consistent with 2009 limits that California’s Air Resources Board began to phase in. California’s limits range from 0.05 part per million (ppm) to 0.13 ppm, depending on the product covered.
According to the agency, the final rule addresses formaldehyde, which can irritate the skin, eyes, nose, and throat following short-term, relatively low exposures. EPA says elevated exposures may cause some cancers.
One year after the rule’s publication, composite wood products that are sold, supplied, offered for sale, manufactured, or imported into the United States will need to be labeled as Title VI compliant under the Toxic Substances Act (TSCA). These products include hardwood plywood, medium-density fiberboard, particleboard as well as household and other finished goods containing these products.
The Formaldehyde Emission Standards for Composite Wood Products Act of 2010 established emission standards for formaldehyde from composite wood products and directed EPA to finalize a rule on implementing and enforcing a number of provisions covering composite wood products.
Formaldehyde may be released from adhesives that are used 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 eye, nose and throat irritation, other respiratory symptoms, and cancer.
EPA is setting testing requirements to ensure that products comply with those standards, establishing eligibility requirements for third-party certifiers, and establishing eligibility requirements for accreditation bodies to be recognized by EPA that will accredit the third-party certifiers. The new rule includes certain exemptions for products made with ultra-low formaldehyde or no-added formaldehyde resins and new requirements for product labeling, recordkeeping, and enforcement provisions.
Additional provisions, including recordkeeping requirements, apply to importers, distributors and retailers, which includes dealers selling recreational vehicles, mobile homes, and building materials.
There is, however, some variation between the national rule and California’s, one of which is that EPA requires recordkeeping for three years compared to California’s two-year requirement. EPA is also requiring importers to provide certification of their compliance with the rule within two years, and the agency requires manufacturers to disclose emissions test results to their direct purchasers upon request.
Additionally, companies that make or import laminated hardwood plywood products are not automatically exempt, as they are from California’s requirement. Under EPA’s final rule, while some laminators will qualify for exemptions, others must comply within seven years.