WASHINGTON – California's rule governing formaldehyde emissions from composite wood panels would become the law of the land under a pair of proposed rules announced today by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

EPA Proposes Rules for Wood Composite Formaldehyde EmissionsIn a press release, EPA stated, "EPA’s proposed rules align, where practical, with the requirements for composite wood products set by the California Air Resources Board (CARB), putting in place national standards for companies that manufacture or import these products. EPA’s national rules will also encourage an ongoing industry trend towards switching to no-added formaldehyde resins in composite wood products."

Products covered by the EPA's rule would include those made with particleboard, MDF, hardwood plywood and hardboard.

CARB approved its airborne toxic control measure (ATCM) to reduce formaldehyde emissions from composite wood panels and from finished goods in April 2007. In July 2010, Congress passed the Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Products Act. The legislation, supported by the Composite Panel Association (CPA), Hardwood Plywood Veneer Association (HPVA), Sierra Club and other trade associations and groups, established formaldehyde emission standards patterned after and directed EPA to propose rules to enforce the act's provisions.

EPA said its first proposal limits how much formaldehyde may be emitted from hardwood plywood, medium-density fiberboard, particleboard and finished goods that are manufactured in the Uniited States or imported. In addition, this proposal sets testing requirements, laminated product provisions, product labeling requirements, chain of custody documentation, record keeping, a stockpiling prohibition and enforcement provisions. EPA said it proposed creating "a common-sense exemption from some testing and record-keeping requirements for products made with no-added formaldehyde resins."

EPA's second proposal establishes a third-party certification framework designed to ensure that manufacturers of composite wood products meet the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) formaldehyde emission standards by having their composite wood products certified though an accredited third-party certifier. EPA said, "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."

In 2010, Congress passed the Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Products Act, or Title VI of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), which establishes emission standards for formaldehyde from composite wood products and directs EPA to propose rules to enforce the act’s provisions. EPA’s proposed rules align, where practical, with the requirements for composite wood products set by the California Air Resources Board, putting in place national standards for companies that manufacture or import these products. EPA’s national rules will also encourage an ongoing industry trend towards switching to no-added formaldehyde resins in composite wood products.

In June 2011, The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services added formaldehyde to its Report on Carcinogens, what the HHS describes as: "a science-based document that identifies chemicals and biological agents that may put people at increased risk for cancer." The composite wood panel industry, which traditionally has relied on urea formaldehyde resins to manufacture particleboard, MDF and hardboard, has dramatically lowered formaldehyde emissions over the years, including in some cases switching to no-added formaldehyde alternatives.

James Jones, EPA's acting assistant administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, said, “Once final, the rules will reduce the public’s exposure to this harmful chemical found in many products in our homes and workplaces."

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