Home furnishings manufacturers must comply with the California Air Resources Board (CARB) formaldehyde regulation, which was implemented in two phases between 2010 and 2012. Congress passed a federal formaldehyde emissions standard in 2010, but the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has not yet been able to settle on implementation rules for the standard.
The CARB rule regulates formaldehyde in both raw composite wood panels and finished products sold or used in California. AHFA and other stakeholders worked with CARB officials for more than seven years to establish a workable enforcement scheme and testing methods. Importantly, within the CARB enforcement framework, composite wood product producers are responsible for testing, certification and documentation of compliance.
In May 2013, the EPA released proposed enforcement rules for the federal formaldehyde emission standard that largely mirrored the California enforcement framework, with one glaring exception. The EPA proposed putting all furniture manufacturers who use hardwood/plywood panels in the same category as the hardwood/plywood producers themselves – meaning furniture companies would be subject to extensive testing, third-party certification and documentation requirements. If approved, this change would dramatically impact all manufacturers around the globe who produce furniture using composite wood products.
In May 2014, a key EPA official told AHFA staff and Board Members that the agency was rethinking its approach to laminated products, including providing exemptions similar to those in the CARB rule. But EPA has missed two self-imposed deadlines for settling the matter by publishing completed implementation rules. As January 2016 arrived, the final rules were still nowhere in sight.
AHFA maintains that the cost of the EPA’s proposed implementation rule to the furniture industry – as proposed in 2013 – would be in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Furthermore, those added costs would do nothing to decrease formaldehyde emissions nor to increase any health benefit to consumers.As a key stakeholder, AHFA has remained integrally involved with CARB and the EPA as both agencies work toward finalizing implementation rules. AHFA staff and member company executives have met with regulators and lawmakers, and AHFA hosted a key EPA official on factory visits in North Carolina to demonstrate laminated product production. In addition, AHFA has met with EPA and CARB scientists, participated in various joint studies to identify data gaps, and worked with the private sector and regulatory agencies to bridge those gaps and ensure the accuracy and reliability of test methods.
Further, AHFA has outlined six specific opportunities for strengthening the federal regulation, detailed here. Following widespread media attention focused on formaldehyde in laminate flooring, AHFA also created a Media Alert on formaldehyde in an attempt to stem the tide of misguided reporting.
AHFA maintains that EPA has the expertise, resources and ability to improve the science of formaldehyde emissions testing and can correct deficiencies within the CARB regulation. AHFA remains an advocate for stronger oversight both by CARB and third-party certifiers. Strengthening these requirements, both in oversight and in scientific rigor, are essential to accomplishing the goals of the emissions standards. (January 2016)