Jun 7, 2017

EPA Further Delays Implementation of Final Rule for Wood Composite Formaldehyde Emissions

(PAINT.ORG) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has once again pushed back the implementation date for its final rule that limits formaldehyde emissions from composite wood products. In a direct final rule, the compliance dates for the rule set the emission limits, recordkeeping, and labeling requirements for March 22, 2018, instead of Dec. 12, 2017; importers of articles made with composite wood products, such as furniture or kitchen cabinets, must certify the articles comply by March 22, 2019; and laminated products producers have one additional year, until March 22, 2024, to comply with the emissions.

Prior to this delay, implementation had been pushed back following the White House "regulatory freeze" memo.

EPA on Dec. 12, 2016 published in the Federal Register its final rule that limits formaldehyde emissions from composite wood products and establishes a process by which companies will use third parties to certify compliance with the formaldehyde emission standards. EPA's announcement followed a four-month long delay since its pre-publication notice on July 27. The pre-publication notice was mostly consistent with 2009 limits that California's Air Resources Board began to phase in. California's limits range from 0.05 part per million (ppm) to 0.13 ppm, depending on the product covered.

The final rule addresses formaldehyde, which the agency says can irritate the skin, eyes, nose, and throat following short-term, relatively low exposures. EPA says elevated exposures may cause some cancers.

The final rule mandates composite wood products that are sold, supplied, offered for sale, manufactured, or imported into the United States to be labeled as Title VI compliant under the Toxic Substances Act (TSCA). These products include hardwood plywood, medium-density fiberboard, particleboard as well as household and other finished goods containing these products.

The Formaldehyde Emission Standards for Composite Wood Products Act of 2010 established emission standards for formaldehyde from composite wood products and directed EPA to finalize a rule on implementing and enforcing many provisions covering composite wood products.

Formaldehyde may be released from adhesives that are used in a wide range of wood products, such as some furniture, flooring, cabinets, bookcases, and building materials including plywood and wood panels. Exposure to formaldehyde can cause adverse health effects including eye, nose and throat irritation, other respiratory symptoms, and cancer.

EPA is setting testing requirements to ensure that products comply with those standards, establishing eligibility requirements for third-party certifiers, and establishing eligibility requirements for accreditation bodies to be recognized by EPA that will accredit the third-party certifiers. The final rule includes certain exemptions for products made with ultra-low formaldehyde or no-added formaldehyde resins and new requirements for product labeling, recordkeeping, and enforcement provisions.

Additional provisions, including recordkeeping requirements, apply to importers, distributors, and retailers, which includes dealers selling recreational vehicles, mobile homes, and building materials.

There is, however, some variation between the national rule and California's, one of which is that EPA requires recordkeeping for three years compared to California's two-year requirement. EPA is also requiring importers to provide certification of their compliance with the rule within two years, and the agency requires manufacturers to disclose emissions test results to their direct purchasers upon request.

Additionally, companies that make or import laminated hardwood plywood products are not automatically exempt, as they are from California's requirement. Under EPA's final rule, while some laminators will qualify for exemptions, others must comply within seven years.