Formaldehyde Emission Standards for Composite Wood Products
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On December 12, 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a final rule to implement the Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Products Act, which added Title VI to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The purpose of this rule is to reduce consumer and worker exposure to formaldehyde from certain wood products produced domestically or imported into the United States.
The formaldehyde emission standard can be read in its entirety in the Federal Register.
The Formaldehyde Emission Standards for Composite Wood Products Act was passed in 2010, but it took the EPA six years to finalize the implementation details. The emission standards in the Act mirror those established by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and implemented in two phases in 2010 and 2012 for products sold in the state of California.
The federal rule applies to hardwood plywood, medium-density fiberboard and particleboard, as well as household products containing these components. The deadline for producing and labeling compliant products as TSCA Title VI compliant was June 1, 2018.
The rule includes provisions for laminated products, as well as product testing requirements, labeling guidelines, recordkeeping requirements and rules for import certification.
The final rule also establishes a third-party certification program for laboratory testing and oversight of formaldehyde emissions from manufactured and/or imported composite wood products.
From the time it was signed into law by President Obama in July 2010 to the EPA’s final implementation of the rule in December 2016 and through all of the amendment activities (detailed below), AHFA has been integrally involved in every defining action of the Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Products Act.
As the rule was being developed, AHFA met with federal officials in Washington, hosted them on tours of member company plants, invited them to speak at AHFA-sponsored events and conferred with them regularly on all details of the rule that impact residential furniture manufacturers.
A first draft of the implementation rule was released in 2013, stunning the furniture industry with its proposal to lump furniture manufacturers in with composite board manufacturers and requiring onerous product testing. AHFA estimated that a typical nightstand containing composite wood panels and offered in three finishes would incur $5,400 in testing costs to comply. The financial burden of the proposed testing would have likely bankrupt many home furnishings companies.
AHFA joined forces with a broad coalition of industry stakeholders and successfully advocated critical changes to key provisions in the implementation rule. In the end, laminated products made with synthetic face veneers, oriented strand board, curved plywood and structural plywood were exempt.
A narrowly defined group of laminated products – those with wood or woody grass veneers – had until June 1, 2018 to comply with the EPA emission limits for core panel, which are the same as those established by CARB. Testing and certification requirements for these products take effect in March 2024, unless manufacturers switch to a no-added-formaldehyde or PF resin.
AHFA remained the industry’s sole advocate at the table as amendments to clarify the final rule were proposed, debated and, in one case, challenged in court. AHFA continues its efforts to bring clarity and understanding to all aspects of the rule.
Compliance Date Amendment
On March 13, 2018, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California issued an order addressing litigation over the December 12, 2018 compliance date for the formaldehyde standards for composite wood products. Following that court order and joint stipulation document, the relevant compliance dates are now:
• Beginning June 1, 2018, regulated composite wood panels and finished products containing such composite wood panels that are manufactured in the United States or imported into the United States must be certified as compliant with TSCA Title VI by a third-party certifier (TPC) approved by CARB and recognized by EPA.
• Until March 22, 2019, regulated products certified as compliant with the CARB ATCM Phase II emission standards could be labeled as compliant with either the TSCA Title VI or the CARB ATCM Phase II emission standards. Regulated products manufactured in or imported into the United States after March 22, 2019 may not rely on the CARB reciprocity of 40 CFR 770.15(e) and must be certified and labeled as TSCA Title VI compliant by an EPA TSCA Title VI TPC with all of the required accreditations.
• As of March 22, 2019, CARB-approved third-party certifiers were required to comply with additional accreditation requirements in order to remain recognized as an EPA TSCA Title VI TPC and to continue certifying products as TSCA Title VI compliant.
The following compliance dates are in effect per the September 25, 2017 final rule:
• March 22, 2019 for import certification; and
• March 22, 2024; for laminated product producer provisions.
Voluntary Consensus Standards Amendment
On February 7, 2018, EPA published a final rule to update several voluntary consensus standards listed at 40 CFR § 770.99 and incorporated by reference in the Formaldehyde Emission Standards for Composite Wood Products rule.
These updates apply to emission testing methods and regulated composite wood product construction characteristics.
Additionally, the final rule amends the rule at 40 CFR § 770.20(d) by allowing the formaldehyde emissions mill quality control test methods to correlate to either the ASTM E1333-14 test method or, upon a showing of equivalence, the ASTM D6007-14 test method. The correction aligns the mill quality control testing requirements with CARB standards, allowing mill quality control tests to be correlated to the more commonly used ASTM D6007-14 test method.
Panels or bundles of panels that are sold, supplied, or offered for sale in the United States must be labeled with the name of the panel producer, the lot number, the number of the accredited third-party certifier, and “markings” indicating that the product complies with the TSCA Title VI emission standards.
Fabricators of finished goods containing composite wood products must label every finished good they produce, or every box containing finished goods. These labels can be a stamp, tag or sticker and must contain:
• the fabricator’s name,
• the date the finished good was produced, and
• a statement that the finished goods are TSCA Title VI compliant.
AHFA sought additional guidance on what constitutes an acceptable statement of compliance. Fabricators may simply use the words: TSCA Title VI. An appropriate label would be:
The Good Life Furniture Company
TSCA Title VI
EPA states that compliance labels must be legible and in English, but there are no specifications for fonts or font sizes. Companies are free to combine the TSCA Title VI label with other labels, so long as all the required information is present. In most cases, manufacturers simply removed the words “CARB P2” and replaced with “TSCA Title VI.”
NOTE: CARB officials will accept TSCA Title VI. Companies need not list BOTH standards on products shipped into California.
EPA notes that the phrase “the date the finished good was produced” means the actual date of production in “month/year” format, not the date the product was imported.
For finished goods that are partially made with exempt panels, such as those using NAF or ULEF resins, they may, at the discretion of the fabricator, be labeled with phrases such as “product contains TSCA Title VI products and NAF/ULEF products,” “product contains TSCA Title VI products and NAF products,” or “product contains TSCA Title VI products and ULEF products,” if is this is accurate.
For finished goods, EPA requires either the fabricator’s name on the label or the name of a responsible downstream entity (e.g., an importer, wholesaler, distributor or retailer). Where a non-fabricator’s name appears on the label, that entity is responsible for identifying the fabricator and is responsible for the compliance of the labeled products, as if they were the fabricator. Fabricators may not put a downstream entity’s name on the label unless they have written consent from that entity to do so.
The final rule prohibits the use of barcodes or non-text labels as the sole label. Entities that wish to use barcodes or other non-text labels may do so but must also have the encoded TSCA Title VI information printed on the label in English text.
The final rule allows composite wood products and finished goods to be labeled by bundle or box, as opposed to being labeled individually.
For information on combining the TSCA Title VI compliance statement with other required labels, including California Proposition 65, see Anatomy of a Furniture Law Label.
After March 22, 2019, regulated composite wood products (CWP) and finished goods manufactured in or imported into the United States must be certified as TSCA Title VI compliant by an EPA TSCA Title VI third-party certifier and labeled as such. In other words, after March 22, 2019, a CARB ATCM Phase II label is NOT sufficient.
Importers are responsible for providing a TSCA Section 13 import certification for articles containing regulated CWP, component parts or finished goods imported into the United States. U.S. Customs and Border Protection has provided the following resources to assist importers in understanding the requirements for importing regulated CWP.
TSCA Title VI Import Certification Webinar
February 26 and March 6, 2019
Requirements for Importing Regulated Composite Wood Products
December 11, 2018
Read the formaldehyde emission standards final rule in the Federal Register (40 CFR Part 770).
Impact of Court Order on TSCA Formaldehyde Compliance Part 2
April 11, 2018
Impact of the New Formaldehyde Deadline Part 1
April 4, 2018
Power Point Presentations from AHFA’s January 18-19, 2017 Joint Industry Workshop on the EPA Formaldehye Rule:
Overview of the EPA Formaldehyde Rule
Erik Winchester, Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention
Harmonization of the CARB ATCM with the EPA Formaldehyde Rule
Lynn Baker, Air Pollution Specialist, California Air Resources Board
Best Practices for Filing the Import Declaration
Mark Duvall, Beveridge & Diamond
Domestic Panel Third-Party Certification Program
Jackson Morrill, President, Composite Panel Association
Supply Chain Management for Composite Wood Products
Brian Kneibel, General Manager-Furnishings, Intertek
Pratik Ichhaporia PhD, Director of Technical Services, Intertek
Best Practices for Document Retrieval/Section 770.3 Labeling
Michael Sullivan and Christa Burger, Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice
Document Retention and Labeling Compliance Checklist for Fabricators (other than Laminated Product Producers)