EPA Proposes Rules to Limit Formaldehyde in Wood Products.

Last week, EPA released two new proposed rules to set and certify formaldehyde emissions standards in wood products. EPA developed the rules to implement the Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Products Act (“the Act”), which added Title VI to the Toxic Substances Control Act (“TSCA”). The proposed rules would apply to domestic and imported hardwood plywood, medium-density fiberboard, particleboard, and finished goods – such as furniture – containing such products.

The emissions standards are established by the Act and match the limits already in place in California for wood products sold in the state. EPA’s proposed rules are designed to align with California’s program, but differ in how laminated products are defined and regulated. The proposal exempts laminated products “in which a wood veneer is attached to a compliant and certified platform using a [no-added formaldehyde-based] resin.”

The first proposed rule [PDF] requires that all wood products made in or imported into the U.S. be certified by a third party as compliant with the formaldehyde emission standards. The proposal imposes testing and product labeling requirements, a prohibition on product stockpiling, and provisions related to chain-of-custody documentation, recordkeeping, and enforcement. The proposed rule also provides incentives similar to the ones in place in California for the use of ultra low-emitting formaldehyde (“ULEF”) resins and no-added formaldehyde (“NAF”) resins.

The second proposed rule establishes a framework for third-party certification of compliant wood products, and is also meant to align with California’s existing requirements. Under the proposed rule, EPA-recognized accreditation bodies would evaluate and approve third-party certifiers (“TPCs”). Both the accreditation bodies and TPCs would be required to follow “voluntary consensus standards” established by the International Organization for Standardization (“ISO”) and International Electrotechnical Commission (“IEC”) related to assessing conformity, performing investigations, etc. The proposed rule requires that accreditation bodies conduct certain oversight activities, including recordkeeping, reporting to EPA, and auditing of TPCs and their testing laboratories. EPA could also independently oversee accreditation bodies and TPCs.

The proposed rules were released in pre-publication format and have yet to appear in the Federal Register. Once they are published, the proposed rules will also be accessible on Regulations.gov under the following docket numbers: EPA-HQ-OPPT-2012-0018 and EPA-HQ-OPPT-2011-0380.