Many furniture manufacturers are improving the efficiency of their processes, eliminating unnecessary costs, and improving quality by using structural plywood and oriented strand board (OSB) in their frames. OSB produced to U.S. Product Standard PS 2, and structural plywood produced to PS 2 or U.S. Product Standard PS 1 are typically used as floors, walls, and roofs.
 
The same strength and durability qualities required by building codes makes these panels excellent for furniture components. These structural panels have become much more common recently as manufacturers work to streamline and automate their assembly processes. 
 
In addition to gaining the strength properties of structural panels, manufacturers achieve efficiencies that make them more competitive against imported furniture products. Recent studies by APA–The Engineered Wood Association reveal that the use of plywood and OSB in furniture frames has grown from 10 percent of the total market in 1992 to 41 percent today. 
 
 Due to concern over health issues related to elevated levels of formaldehyde, regulations on formaldehyde emissions from glued furniture components have been implemented in the U.S. Because structural plywood and OSB have been exempted due to their low formaldehyde emissions, many furniture producers are choosing these products as the most effective method of compliance.

The Future for Formaldehyde

On July 27, 2016, the EPA released their prepublication version of the rules for “The Formaldehyde Emission Standards for Composite Wood Products Act of 2010.” This national “formaldehyde act” establishes formaldehyde emission standards for composite wood panels and finished goods made with these products. Composite panels are defined as particleboard, medium density fiberboard (MDF) and hardwood (decorative) plywood. One year after the rule is published, composite wood products and finished goods that are sold, supplied, offered for sale, manufactured, or imported in the U.S. will need to be labeled as TSCA Title VI compliant. 
 
With respect to the structural panels made by APA members, the “formaldehyde act” is technically consistent with the Airborne Toxic Control Measure (ATCM) for composite wood issued by the California Air Resources Board in that structural engineered wood products are exempted from the scope of the act. 
 

What is formaldehyde?

Formaldehyde is a naturally occurring organic airborne chemical that can be synthesized for certain industrial uses, such as adhesives used for wood products. It also can be used in the manufacturing of many other household goods, such as medical products, carpets, and even cosmetics. 
 
At room temperature, formaldehyde is a colorless gas, which has a pungent smell at higher concentrations. Formaldehyde is a simple chemical made of hydrogen, oxygen, and carbon. It is produced and present in many natural processes including human bodies, plants and animals, and is naturally present in outdoor air. 
 
In the U.S., formaldehyde regulations of composite wood products began in the early 1980s for particleboard and decorative plywood panels used in manufactured homes. Data indicated that emission levels from moisture resistant phenol formaldehyde adhesives used for structural plywood were very low; therefore, because of the low levels of emissions, the HUD regulations explicitly excluded plywood made with phenol formaldehyde adhesives. 
 

North American Formaldeyde Regulations

Because the vast majority of North American construction involves site-built conditions where exposure to weather is expected, the standards for engineered wood products require moisture-resistant adhesive systems. The inherent structural and moisture durability of these adhesive systems naturally results in very low formaldehyde emissions. 
 
Along with adhesives, four formaldehyde regulations have been placed on other wood products in the U.S. and Canada. 
U.S. HUD Manufactured Home Construction and Safety Standard (CFR 3280.308)
California Air Resources Board (CARB) Air Toxic Control Measure (ATCM) for Composite Wood Products 
U.S. Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Products Act
Health Canada Guidelines 
o Wood products manufactured in Canada are not regulated for formaldehyde emissions. Health Canada provides guidelines for residential indoor air quality and the recommended formaldehyde exposure levels. The engineered wood products in Canada and the U.S. are manufactured under similar product standards and adhesives, and have similar product performance and formaldehyde emission characteristics, which have been proven to meet the most stringent formaldehyde regulations around the world. 

International Engineered Panel Regulations

Wood product standards in other countries often group structural and nonstructural panel types into a common standard, whereby the moisture resistance and formaldehyde emission characteristics are evaluated to specific criteria. 
 
When tested to international formaldehyde emission limits, North American engineered wood products have consistently met the most stringent emission regulations. Some North American engineered wood products have been evaluated to formaldehyde emission standards in Japan, the European Union, Australia, and Korea.
 

What Furniture Manufacturers Need to Know 

APA panels have very low formaldehyde emission levels that they easily meet or are exempt from the world’s leading formaldehyde emission standards and regulations. An APA trademark appears only on products manufactured by APA member mills and signify that panel quality is subject to verification through the APA audit. The audit is designed to assure manufacturers are in conformance with APA performance standards or Voluntary Product Standard PS1-09 for Structural Plywood or Voluntary Product Standard PS 2-10, Performance Standard for Wood-Based Structural-Use Panels. 
 
Upholstered furniture made with structural panels bearing the APA trademark is the most effective method for manufacturers to comply with emissions standards and regulations. It also assures customers that the manufacturer is only selling the highest quality products made from engineered wood components. 

Frank Devlin is Market Communications Manager for APA - The Engineered Wood  Association, based in Tacoma, Washington. For over eighty years, APA has focused on helping the industry create structural wood products of exceptional strength, versatility and reliability. www.apawood.org

 

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