• Thomas Russell

EPA seeks comments on extension of national formaldehyde standard deadlines

Interested parties have until June 8 to comment on new effective dates for national standard

HIGH POINT — Stakeholders in a new national formaldehyde emissions standard for composite wood products have until June 8 to comment on the extension of compliance standards recently announced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The new national standard, which was first announced in the Federal Register this past December, falls under what’s called the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

Formaldehyde poses health concerns because it is known to cause nose, eye and upper respiratory irritation, the latter of which is particularly an issue for people with asthma. It also has been linked to some cancers, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is mostly odorless below one part per million but can be detected at lower concentrations.

The changes proposed by the EPA include the extension of an original Dec. 12, 2017, date for emission standards, record keeping and labeling provisions until March 22, 2018. At this point, hardwood plywood made with a combination core or a veneer core, particleboard and MDF (medium density fiberboard) must be manufactured and imported in compliance with the rule, which establishes a formaldehyde emission standard of .05 parts per million (ppm) for hardwood plywood made with a veneer core or composite core, .09 ppm for particleboard, .11 ppm for MDF and .13 ppm for thin MDF.

These standards are identical to the Phase 2 requirements set forth by the California Air Resources Board, which regulated products sold in California. The new standard regulates products sold around the country.

This final rule establishes the manufactured-by date for laminated products at Dec. 12, 2023. Before that date, laminated product producers must use compliant composite wood product platforms and comply with the record keeping and labeling requirements for fabricators. After that date, laminated products that are exempt from the definition of hardwood plywood must also keep, as a condition of the exemption, records demonstrating eligibility for the exemption. Other laminated products will have to be made in compliance with the testing and TPC certification requirements for hardwood plywood.

The EPA also has proposed extending the original Dec. 12, 2018, date for import certification provisions until March 22, 2019. These provisions require importers to certify all chemical substances in a shipment comply with all applicable rules or orders under TSCA and that the importer is not shipping a product that is in violation of the standard. The EPA said such certification statements provided in paper have commonly been included on or attached to bills of lading, commercial invoices or comparable documents. Importers or their agents can also submit these documents electronically.

The EPA also is extending the original Dec. 12, 2023, date for provisions applicable to laminated products producers until March 22, 2024. The EPA said under the final rule, the definition of hardwood plywood exempts “laminated products made by attaching a wood or woody grass veneer to a compliant core or platform with a phenol-formaldehyde resin or a resin formulated with no added formaldehyde as part of the resin cross-linking structure."

To qualify for the exemption, a fabricator much switch to a phenol-formaldehyde (PF) resin or a no-added formaldehyde (NAF) resin for use in attaching the veneer to compliant HWPW, according to the American Home Furnishings Alliance. Laminated products made with with a synthetic veneer such as foil or paper also are exempt, the AHFA said.

To be eligible for the exemption, laminated product producers must maintain records demonstrating eligibility for the exemption, according to the EPA. 

Finally, the EPA has extended an original transitional period for CARB-recognized Third Party Certifiers that was originally set to end Dec. 12, 2018. This has been extended to March 22, 2019, to allow more time for companies to establish business relationships with the TPCs, which must also be approved and recognized by the EPA before being able to certify wood products under the standard.

As with CARB, the standard applies to manufacturers, importers, wholesalers and retailers of furniture and related products. The EPA said that it doesn’t expect any major concerns or adverse comments regarding the deadline extensions. However, if it does by the June 8 deadline, the agency said that it will publish a timely withdrawal in the Federal Register informing the public the rule will not take effect as planned on July 10.

For a link to the full regulation, visit https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=EPA-HQ-OPPT-2016-0461-0001.

To comment by the June 8 deadline, visit https://www.epa.gov/laws-regulations/get-involved-epa-regulations.

We want to hear from the industry on this issue. How does the new national formaldehyde Standard affect your business? Feel free to comment below or email Thomas Russell at trussell@furnituretoday.com. He may also be reached at 336-605-3815.

Thomas RussellThomas Russell | Associate Editor, Furniture Today
trussell@furnituretoday.com

I'm Tom Russell and have worked at Furniture/Today since August 2003. Since then, I have covered the international side of the business from a logistics and sourcing standpoint. Since then, I also have visited several furniture trade shows and manufacturing plants in Asia, which has helped me gain perspective about the industry in that part of the world. As I continue covering the import side of the business, I look forward to building on that knowledge base through conversations with industry officials and future overseas plant tours. From time to time, I will file news and other industry perspectives online and, as always, welcome your response to these Web postings.

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