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 Standards for Composite Wood Products Act was passed in 2010, but it took the EPA six years to finalize the implementation details. The formaldehyde emission limits 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.
In addition to harmonizing the federal emission limits with those in the California rule, EPA worked to keep the implementation requirements for the federal rule consistent with those for CARB. Some exceptions include how manufacturers handle non-complying lots and the certification process for imported products.
The federal rule applies to hardwood plywood, medium-density fiberboard and particleboard, as well as household products containing these components. Laminated products with a wood or woody-grass veneer affixed to a composite wood platform also are subject to the rule. (Laminated products made with synthetic face veneers, oriented strand board, curved plywood and structural plywood (PS-1 and PS-2) are exempt.)
The deadline for producing and labeling covered products as TSCA Title VI compliant is December 12, 2017.
The rule includes product testing requirements, labeling guidelines, recordkeeping requirements and rules for import certification. It also establishes a third-party certification program for laboratory testing.
AHFA’s focused advocacy efforts over the last decade had a positive impact on the final EPA formaldehyde rule and produced several key changes from the first draft of the rule released in 2013. Left unchanged, the original draft would have decimated the residential furniture industry, forcing plant closures and widespread job losses.
The original rule required onerous new testing expenses for both domestic and overseas producers. Factories would have been required to implement daily component testing and quarterly product-level certification. The industry-wide cost was estimated in the hundreds of millions of dollars, despite clear science showing that the new measures would not provide any increased health benefit to American consumers.
That science was rooted in studies conducted by AHFA, CARB, the Composite Panel Association and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. AHFA outlined the studies in clear terms for EPA officials, illustrated it with infographics and hand-delivered it to both regulators and legislators on Capitol Hill. Those Hill visits were followed by formal comments submitted to the EPA in a 22-page document with 16 separate supporting documents.
AHFA also hosted a top EPA official on a plant tour in North Carolina and provided oral testimony during public hearings in Washington on the proposed rule. AHFA’s efforts continued unabated for three years, until the revised rule was finally introduced in 2016.
The Alliance continues working on the industry’s behalf as amendments are made to fine-tune the implementation rules. So far, AHFA has successfully advocated the removal of a prohibition against early labeling of compliant products. AHFA has also advocated a revised compliance timeline that would extend all deadlines within the rule by three months. This amendment is expected to be finalized in the fall of 2017.
A workshop to help member companies understand their responsibilities under the new regulation was held in January 2017, and a compliance toolbox was added to the AHFA website in August 2017. In addition, an EPA official was slated to attend AHFA’s 2017 Regulatory Summit on October 25 to address any remaining questions about the rule’s implementation. (August 2017)