CARB leveled the playing field in California. Now, legislation before Congress may extend that fair play across the nation.

Earlier this month, the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection held a public hearing on HR 4805, The Formaldehyde in Composite Wood Products Act. Introduced by Representatives Doris Matsui (D-CA) and Vernon Ehlers (R-MI), the legislation directs the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to establish a national emission standard under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). What this means is that particleboard, MDF and hardwood plywood manufactured or sold in the United States — and the products made from them — will have to meet the formaldehyde emission ceilings set by CARB.

According to advocates, this will give the United States one of the toughest production standards in the world. The bill is supported by a coalition of industry, environmental, health and labor organizations, including the Composite Panel Assn. (CPA), the American Home Furnishings Alliance and The Sierra Club.

CPA President Tom Julia testified at the hearing on behalf of the bill, stating, “There is still too much product that enters the U.S. market made by companies who don’t participate in trade associations, who don’t get their products tested and certified, who don’t sell into California, and who sell low-priced goods to the most vulnerable of our citizens. These are the bad actors that HR 4805 will reach, while at the same time ensuring a consistent standard of compliance and enforcement throughout the United States.”

The language in HR 4805 resembles that of S 1660, the Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Act introduced last fall by Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Mike Crapo (R-ID).

Highlighting the need for emission regulation, just a few months ago the International Agency for Research on Cancer reported a link between formaldehyde exposure and leukemia. Formaldehyde was already classified by IARC as a “known human carcinogen,” in particular nasopharyngeal cancer.

If it can be shown that establishing formaldehyde emission levels can level the playing field between U.S. manufacturers and importers, and if it can be proven that high levels of exposure to formaldehyde emissions can indeed cause cancer — then where is the debate? Why is Congress waiting to pass this legislation?

It has the support of industry associations. It has the support of environmental groups. It certainly has my support. Does it have yours?

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