Purchasers of building materials and items such as furniture that contain building materials should always be mindful of formaldehyde risks. Formaldehyde is a colorless, strong-smelling gas used in making building materials. It is used in pressed-wood products, such as particleboard, plywood, and fiberboard; glues and adhesives; permanent-press fabrics; paper product coatings; and certain insulation materials. In certain concentrations it can be cancerous.
By the beginning of June this year, virtually all composite wood products manufactured or sold in the United States, as well as products made with composite wood components, must meet tough formaldehyde standards. As a result, manufacturers of hardwood plywood, medium-density fiberboard, particleboard, and a wide range of products containing these materials, are now racing the clock to have their products certified in time to demonstrate compliance.
The new June 1 deadline, announced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in the Federal Register, effectively requires companies to come into compliance six months earlier than EPA had previously allowed. This deadline was established on the heels of last month’s decision by a U.S. District Court, which ruled in favor of a suit brought by the Sierra Club against the EPA for its efforts to delay the compliance deadline from December 2017 to December 2018. Compliance must be demonstrated to Title VI of the Toxics Substance Control Act (TSCA) or the California Air Resources Board (CARB) Airborne Toxic Control Measures (ATCM) Phase II emission standards, which are set at identical levels, by a third-party certifier (TPC) approved by CARB and recognized by EPA.
Voluntary certifications, such as SCS Global Services’ Indoor Advantage Gold, FloorScore for resilient flooring products, and BIFMA e3 level for furniture, and mandatory programs, such as California’s Composite Wood Products Regulation, launched in 2009, have helped drive innovation to reduce or eliminate formaldehyde emissions. The EPA regulations are providing additional momentum, benefiting factory workers and consumers alike, not just in the United States, but in manufacturing countries around the world.