If you manufacture finished goods that contain particleboard, medium density fiberboard (MDF) or hardwood plywood (HWPW), then you likely have been preparing to comply with the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Formaldehyde Emissions Standards for Composite Wood Products rule.  If this is the first time you have heard of this Regulation, known also as “TSCA Title VI” after the statutory authority for the regulation, there is still time to prepare for compliance, but time is of the essence.  This article provides a general outline of the TSCA Title VI requirements applicable to manufacturers of finished products containing composite wood panels, as well as the key dates for compliance, which have only just been finalized through recent litigation. 

Regulatory scope
TSCA Title VI covers all finished goods and component parts made with particleboard, MDF and HWPW.  Fabricators that make component parts using a wood or woody grass veneer (such as bamboo) attached to a composite wood core that is later used in a finished product may also meet the definition for “laminated product” producers, which triggers several additional requirements starting March 22, 2024.  TSCA Title VI does include a “de minimis” exemption for finished goods or component parts sold directly to end users if its composite wood content does not exceed 144 square inches on its largest face.  This exemption applies only to labeling; products such as small picture frames and others that meet the de minimis definition must still be made with compliant composite wood and comply with recordkeeping requirements. 

Sourcing requirements
The central requirement for manufacturers of finished goods is that they use compliant composite wood and that this is documented throughout the supply chain.  On March 13, 2018, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California issued an order altering many TSCA Title VI compliance dates, including those related to sourcing.  Fabricators must either begin using TSCA Title VI certified composite wood panels in all component parts and finished goods by June 1, 2018, or be able to prove that the composite wood panels or component parts were manufactured before, or were in inventory prior to, that date.  The Court has now also allowed California Air Resources Board Airborne Toxic Control Measure Phase 2 (“CARB 2”) certified composite wood panels to be considered TSCA Title VI compliant until March 22, 2019.       

Sell through
All composite wood panels manufactured or imported before June 1, 2018 may be used to fabricate component parts or finished goods at any time. Panels manufactured, or imported after that date, must be certified to be used in finished goods or component parts.  TSCA Title VI places limits on stockpiling, so product manufacturers will need to review this carefully in preparing for the June 1, compliance date. 

Importantly, there is no sell through provision for finished goods made with CARB 2-certified panels prior to March 22, 2019.  As a result, finished product manufacturers will need to manage inventories carefully to ensure they have only products made with TSCA Title VI certified composite wood by March 22, 2019. 

Labeling and recordkeeping
Finished product manufacturers must label products as TSCA Title VI compliant by June 1, 2018.  Notably, thanks to the District Court’s recent order, manufacturers may begin labeling as TSCA Title VI compliant finished products or component parts made with either TSCA Title VI or CARB 2-certified composite wood panels.  Finished goods manufacturers must also keep all bills of lading, invoices or comparable documents demonstrating the purchase of compliant composite wood for three years starting June 1, 2018.

Photo: MasterBrand

Laminated products
TSCA Title VI includes new requirements for fabricators that produce “laminated products” that are used as component parts in a finished good and divides this new product classification into two categories.  The first category refers to panels which have a wood or woody grass veneer attached to a composite wood substrate with a no added formaldehyde (NAF) or phenol-formaldehyde resin.  Fabricators of these laminated products must use compliant composite wood substrates beginning June 1, 2018, but are exempt from other requirements, except for recordkeeping requirements that would apply beginning March 22, 2024.  The second type refers to panels that use any other formaldehyde-based resin to attach a wood or woody grass veneer (e.g., urea-formaldehyde (UF), ULEF).  In addition to the requirement to use compliant core material by June 1, 2018, the second type of laminated products must also meet the emissions limit for hardwood plywood (0.05 ppm) starting March 22, 2024. 

Import certification
Importers of finished goods containing composite wood panels must remember that June 1, 2018 also represents the import-by-date, so any product coming into the country must meet all requirements on that day or it may not be imported into the country.  Additionally, an import certification requirement will be triggered March 22, 2019 for all importers of composite wood panels and component parts or finished goods destined for end use. 

About the Composite Panel Association
The Composite Panel Association (CPA), founded in 1960, represents 95% of the North American manufacturers of particleboard and MDF.  North American mills have invested millions of dollars since 2008 to voluntarily meet the CARB emissions requirements on a national basis.  These emissions requirements, which have been adopted at a national level under TSCA Title VI, are widely viewed as the most stringent in the world.  For the most current information about TSCA Title VI, visit CompositePanel.org or call 703-724-1128.

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