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Jerry Cohen Law and the Business of Furniture blog.

California’s Formaldehyde Regulations: Compliance Primer

October 16, 2008

California means business. Despite the confusion, the lack of infrastructure for required third party testing, and numerous other unanswered questions, California is rolling out and is poised to vigorously enforce its new formaldehyde regulations on January 1, 2009. We’ll leave the wisdom of the regulations to the legislators and lobbyists. The guidelines below should help fabricators (i.e., users of composite wood products to make finished goods and producers of laminated products), importers/distributors, and retailers stay out of the regulators’ cross-hairs.

1. Fabricators.

(a) Use “reasonable prudent precautions” that the composite wood products are in compliance. This includes at a minimum notifying each supplier in writing that they must comply with the regulations (this should be done by certified mail return receipt required – feel free to email me at jcohen@homefurnishingslaw.com for a sample letter), and obtaining written documentation from each supplier that this is so.

(b) Properly label the product (see Section 93120.7(d) of the regulations).

(c) Provide a statement on the bill of lading or invoice that the product complies with the regulations.

(d) Keep all records with respect to compliance for at least two years, including dates of purchases, suppliers’ names, and precautions taken to ensure compliance.

2. Importers/Distributors.

(a) Use “reasonable prudent precautions.” (see paragraph 1(a) above).

(b) Label the products if the product was modified.

(c) Provide a statement on the bill of lading or invoice that the product complies with the regulations.

(d) Keep all records with respect to compliance for at least two years, including dates of purchases, suppliers’ names, and precautions taken to ensure compliance.

3. Retailers.

(a) Use “reasonable prudent precautions.” (see paragraph 1(a) above).

(b) Keep all records with respect to compliance for at least two years, including dates of purchases, suppliers’ names and precautions taken to ensure compliance.

4. Sell-through Periods. Fabricators, importers/distributors and retailers generally have a period of between 12 months and 18 months to dispose of non-compliant inventories, depending on the particular product and other circumstances, beginning January 1, 2009.

5. Enforcement. There is strict liability for violations, and fines can be steep, so negligence or ignorance of the regulations is not a defense.

I’m receiving numerous emails from our loyal readers about the regulations, a few are pro-regulation (or at least favoring the intent), but most vent about the additional cost and time necessary to comply with the requirements. Feel free to post a comment below or email me at jcohen@homefurnishingslaw.com. This post does not discuss compliance by manufacturers/producers of composite wood products (the requirements are extensive) — if you have any questions, please email me separately.