US CARB has announced that it will accept compliant composite wood products that are labeled as TSCA Title VI compliant. The agency also provided a comparison between CARB and US EPA requirements to assist the composite wood products industry.

SAFEGUARDS | Hardlines NO. 068/18

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In 2007-2008, the Airborne Toxic Control Measure (ATCM) to reduce formaldehyde emissions from composite wood products was approved by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and the Office of Administrative Law [1]. The formaldehyde emission standards in the ATCM were implemented in 2 phases. Phase 1 was implemented in January 2009 and Phase 2 was implemented during 2010-2012.

In July 2010, President Obama signed the Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Products Act (the Act) into law [2]. This landmark piece of legislation amended the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and directed the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop regulations to implement the Act. The formaldehyde emission standards are identical to those in Phase 2 of the ATCM to control formaldehyde emissions under CARB.

In December 2016, the US EPA published a Final Rule to implement the Act [3]. The compliance date for emission standards, as amended, is June 1, 2018 [4]. By this date, 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 Phase 2 emission standards by a Third-Party Certifier (TPC) that is approved by CARB and recognized by EPA.

Both California and Federal laws have provisions relating to, among other things, formaldehyde emission standards for hardwood plywood-composite core (HWPW-CC), hardwood plywood-veneer core (HWPW-VC), particleboards (PBs) and medium-density fiberboards (MDFs), economic operators (panel manufacturers, fabricators, distributors, importers and retailers), third-party certification programs, incentives for products manufactured from ultra-low emitting formaldehyde resins (ULEF) and no added-formaldehyde-based resins (NAF), product labeling and Third-party Certifiers (TPCs). The Federal law also has provisions for Accreditation Bodies (ABs) 

In March 2018, CARB published two articles to assist the composite wood products industry. These are:

  • Status of US EPA Formaldehyde Regulation and CARB Regulation [5]
  • Comparison of Key requirements of CARB and US EPA Regulations to Reduce Formaldehyde Emissions from Composite Wood Products [6]

According to the latter article, California accepts the more stringent set of requirements if there is a difference between the requirements under CARB and US EPA,

Major highlights of a comparison of key requirements between CARB and US EPA are summarized in Table 1.

Federal Toxic Substances Control Act 15 U.S.C., Sec. 2697 (TSCA Title VI) California Health and Safety Code (Title 17, Sections 93210-93210.12)
Scope HWPW-CC, HWPW-VC, PBs, MDFs (including thin-MDFs) and laminated products
Record keeping More stringent than CARB:
Three years
Two years
Product labeling

Panels (or bundles of panels) and finished goods (or boxes containing finished goods) may be labeled as complying with TSCA Title VI, CARB Phase 2, or both

After March 22, 2019, regulated composite wood panels and finished goods must be labeled as TSCA Title VI

Panels (or bundles of panels) and finished goods (or boxes containing finished goods) are to be labeled as compliant with CARB’s Phase 2 formaldehyde emission standards
Identification of unlabeled panels and finished goods More stringent than CARB:
Requires method, such as color-coded edge marking, to identify supplier of each compliant panel and finished good
When bundles of panels or boxes of multiple finished goods are labeled, individual panels and finished goods are not required to be labeled
De minimis labeling requirement Finished goods with a surface area of less than 144 square inches, based on the surface area of the largest face (e.g small photo frame), are exempt. More stringent than US EPA:
All finished goods must be labeled as containing Phase 2 compliant composite wood materials
Fabricators of wood-veneered laminated products

Requires the use of TSCA Title VI compliant platform (core) materials

More stringent than CARB:
From March 22, 2024, these fabricators (laminated product producers) must comply with the requirements for HWPW panel manufacturers, including third party certification programs

Requires the use of CARB Phase 2 compliant platform (core) materials
Import Certification More stringent than CARB:
From March 22, 2019, import certification through the US Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Automated Commercial Environment will be required for all imported regulated products
Not required

Next step:

Stakeholders are advised to comply with the latest requirements for formaldehyde emission in composite wood products for the Californian and US markets.

SGS is committed to providing information about development in regulations for consumer products as complimentary services. Through a global network of laboratories, SGS provides a wide range of services including physical/mechanical testing, analytical testing and consultancy work for technical and non-technical parameters applicable to a comprehensive range of consumer products. Please do not hesitate to contact us for further information.

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