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The latest US EPA Final Rule on formaldehyde emissions from composite wood products has addressed certain technical issues and further aligned with the CARB ATCM Phase II Program. This Final Rule became effective on August 21, 2019.

SAFEGUARDS | Hardgoods NO. 124/19

Wood planks on grass

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). The formaldehyde emission standards are identical to those in Phase 2 of the Airbone Toxic Control Measure (ATCM) to control formaldehyde emissions under the California Air Resources Board (CARB). The compliance date for emission standards in the Final Rule, as amended, was June 2018.

Both US EPA and CARB have provisions relating to, inter alia, 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). US EPA also has provisions for Accreditation Bodies (ABs).

On August 21, 2019, the EPA published a revision to the Act addressing certain technicalities and to further align its requirements with the CARB ATCM Phase II Program (84 FR 43517). The latest Final Rule contains, inter alia, several important clarifications and changes:

  • Clarifying the manufactured-by date (including date of import) was June 1, 2018 in accordance with the court ruling of 2018 (Safeguard 47/18)
  • Updating the ISO/IEC 17025:2005(E) and ISO/IEC 17011:2004(E) voluntary consensus standards to their 2017 version
  • Changing the number of consecutive quality control tests from two to three for the notification of a panel manufacturer exceeding its established Quality Control Limit (QLC) within 72 hours of the time that the TPC becomes aware of the exceedance (40 CFR §770.7(c)(4)(v)(C)) 
  • Revising the minimum number of quality control tests to be conducted according to the no-added formaldehyde (NAF) two-year limit exemption application from five (5) to 13 (40 CFR §770.17(a)(4)) 
  • Revising the minimum number of quality control tests to be conducted according to the ultra low-emitting formaldehyde (ULEF) two-year exemption or reduced testing application from 10 to 26 
  • Allowing test results to represent a single chamber value or, if using ASTM D6007-14 (small chamber), the average value of testing nine specimens representing evenly distributed portions of an entire panel (40 CFR §770.20(c)(2)(iv))
  • Clarifying the demonstration of equivalence between large and small chambers must be at least annually or whenever there are significant changes, including equipment, procedure and personnel – this demonstration of equivalence can be between several similar models or size and construction of large and small chambers located in the same TPC laboratory 
  • Unless TPCs are certifying HWPW in the low range, they may demonstrate equivalence in at least two of the three specified formaldehyde emission ranges as part of the testing requirements (40 CFR §770.20(d)(1)(iv)) 
  • Expanding the options for TPCs and mills in establishing correlation coefficients and ‘r’ values beyond the linear regression model by allowing the ‘cluster approach/point of origin approach’ and the ‘threshold approach’ (40 CFR §770.20(d)(1)(2))
  • Clarifying that compliant panels and finished goods must be properly labeled before entering the US

The Final Rule has also addressed abolishing the requirement for TPCs and mills to demonstrate correlation between ASTM E1333-14 (large chamber), or upon equivalence ASTM D6007-14 (small chamber), and the mill quality control testing method on an annual basis. The EPA only requires an initial demonstration of correlation, and an update for any significant changes such as equipment, procedures and personnel.

The latest Final Rule became effective on August 21, 2019 – the date of its publication in the Federal Register.

The complete Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Products Law, including the latest Final Rule, can be found at 40 CFR Part 770.

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