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The US EPA has announced a new compliance date for formaldehyde emissions in composite wood products. The compliance date of December 12, 2018 has been brought forward to June 1, 2018.

SAFEGUARDS | Consumer Products NO. 047/18

SafeGuardS composite wood

In December 2016, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a Final Rule to implement the Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Products Act (the Act). This Final Rule [1] includes provisions relating to, among other things, formaldehyde emission standards in hardwood plywood composite core or veneer core (HWPW-CC or VC), particleboards (PBs) and medium-density fiberboards (MDFs), third-party certification programs, incentives for products manufactured from ultra-low emitting formaldehyde resins (ULEF) and no added-formaldehyde-based resins (NAF), product labeling, Accreditation Bodies (ABs) and Third-party Certifiers (TPCs). The formaldehyde emission standards are identical to those in Phase 2 of the Air Toxic Control Measure (ATCM) to control formaldehyde emissions under the California Air Resources Board (CARB).

The aforementioned Final Rule was going to be implemented in phases, starting December 2017, but was extended to December 12, 2018 [2]. This extension, published in the Final Rule at Federal Register Number 2017-19455 [3], resulted in a legal challenge in the US District Court for the Northern District of California (the Court) to address whether the extended compliance date to implement the formaldehyde emission standards exceeds the EPA’s lawful authority under the Act.

On April 4, 2018, EPA published an announcement in the Federal Register (83 FR 14375 [4]) disclosing the court order and the new compliance date of June 1, 2018 (formerly December 12, 2018) for the manufactured-by date or import-by date for formaldehyde emission standards, record keeping and labeling requirements under the Act. This announcement contains, inter alia, a number of important elements. These include the following:

  • On February 16, 2018, the Court ruled [5] the Delay Rule was beyond the scope of EPA’s authority and was not in accordance with the Act. The court stayed that order vacating the Delay Rule until a timely and effective implementation of the compliance guidelines has been mutually agreed by both parties.

  • On March 13, 2018, the Court issued an order [6] lifting the February 16, 2018 stay as of June 1, 2018. This new compliance date of June 1, 2018 is the manufactured-by date or import-by date for formaldehyde emission standards, record keeping and labeling requirements under the Act

Following the court order and the joint stipulation document [7], the relevant compliance dates are the following:

  • By June 1, 2018, composite wood products (panels and finished goods containing such composite wood panels) that are domestically manufactured or imported must be certified as compliant with either TSCA Title VI or the CARB ATCM Phase II emission standards by a TPC that is approved by CARB and recognized by EPA. 

  • Until March 22, 2019, composite wood products certified as compliant with the CARB ATCM Phase II emission standards are to be labeled as compliant with either TSCA Title VI or CARB ATCM Phase II emission standards. After this date, composite wood products are to be certified and labeled as TSCA Title VI compliant by a fully accredited EPA Title VI TPC

  • After March 22, 2019, CARB-approved TPCs are to be fully accredited to remain EPA-recognized as an EPA TSCA Title VI TPC and to continue certifying products as TSCA Title VI compliant.

The following compliance dates in the Final Rule at Federal Register Number 2017-19455 are unaffected by the court order and will remain in effect:

  • March 22, 2019 for import certification provisions

  • March 22, 2024 for laminated product manufacturer provisions

  • March 22, 2019 for the conclusion of the transition period for CARB TPCs

Highlights of the formaldehyde emission standards for composite wood products, obligations for economic operators and the relevant compliance dates are summarized in Tables 1 and 2.

Formaldehyde Emission Standards for Composite Wood Products
Substance
Scope               
Method                     
Requirement           
Compliance Date                
Formaldehyde
Emission
HWPW-CC
ASTM E1333
(large chamber)
or
ASTM D6007
(small chamber)
≤ 0.05 ppm
June 1, 2018
(Manufactured in
or imported into the US)
HWPW-VC
≤ 0.05 ppm
PB
≤ 0.09 ppm
MDF
≤ 0.11 ppm
Thin-MDF
≤ 0.13 ppm

Table 1. Formaldehyde emission standards for composite wood products

 

Economic Operator Obligation Compliance Date
Manufacturer of composite wood products (mills) Comply with manufactured-by-date for formaldehyde emissions from panels June 1, 2018
Unless products are eligible for limited exemption made with NAF-based or ULEF resins, products must be certified by a TPC that is recognized by EPA June 1, 2018
Quarterly testing and routine quality control testing June 1, 2018
Label compliant panels June 1, 2018
Documentation and record keeping (for 3 years) June 1, 2018
Documentation and record keeping for reduced testing and limited third-party certification exemption for products made with NAF-based or ULEF resins (must be kept for as long as exemption is claimed) June 1, 2018
Manufacturer of laminated products that are not exempt from the definition of HWPW Documentation and record keeping (for 3 years) June 1, 2018
Label compliant finished goods June 1, 2018
Laminated products must comply with HWPW formaldehyde emission standard of no more than 0.05 ppm, testing and record keeping requirements for composite wood products March 22, 2024
Manufacturer of laminated products that are exempt from the definition of HWPW Documentation and record keeping (for 3 years) June 1, 2018
Label compliant finished goods June 1, 2018
Records demonstrating purchase/use of compliant platforms and NAF or ULEF resins March 22, 2024
Fabricator Documentation and record keeping (for 3 years) June 1, 2018
Label compliant finished goods June 1, 2018
Importer Documentation and record keeping (for 3 years) June 1, 2018
Import certification March 22, 2019
Distributor and Retailer Documentation and record keeping (for 3 years) June 1, 2018

Table 2. Obligations for economic operators

Throughout our global network of Third Party Certification laboratories, we can provide a range of services, including certification, analytical testing and consultancy for formaldehyde emissions in composite wood products for California, the US and worldwide markets. Please do not hesitate to contact us for further information. Please also read our white paper Understanding the US Formaldehyde Requirements to Market Compliant Composite Wood Products.

Next step:

Stakeholders are advised to comply with the latest requirements for composite wood products under the Act for the US market.

For enquiries, please contact:

Hingwo Tsang
Global Information and Innovation Manager
t: +852 2774 7420

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