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US EPA Proposes to Revise Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood

SafeGuardSHardgoods, Hardgoods, Home Furnishings and Houseware, Hardgoods, Toys and Juvenile ProductsApril 01, 2022

The US EPA has issued a proposed rule to revise its formaldehyde standards for composite wood under TSCA to meet modern-day requirements and to further align with California. Comments are accepted until April 28, 2022.

 SG 04422 Wood Planks on Grass

In 2016, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a Final Rule to implement the Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Products Act – a landmark piece of legislation which added Title VI to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

This Final Rule, as amended, includes provisions relating to, among other things, formaldehyde emission standards in hardwood plywood composite core or veneer core (HWPW-CC or VC), particleboards (PB) and medium-density fiberboards (MDF), 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 (AB) and Third-party Certifiers (TPC). 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).

On March 29, 2022, the EPA issued a ‘Proposed Rule’ in the Federal Register (87 FR 17963) to revise several sections of 40 CFR Part 770 – Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood. This proposed rule contains, inter alia, several important changes:

  • Updates several voluntary consensus standards under § 770.99 to their latest versions (see Table 1 below) 
  • Allows TPC to carry out (live) remote quarterly inspections, such as video/teleconferences, with the panel producer quality manager during periods of unsafe conditions (e.g., natural disasters, outbreaks, political unrests, epidemics and pandemics) to select, package, sign and ship the TPC panels/samples according to § 770.20(c) ‘Frequency of Testing’ 
  • Clarifies data requirements for no added formaldehyde-based resins (NAF-based resins, § 770.17) and ultra-low-emitting formaldehyde resins (ULEF resins, § 770.18) to fully align with the CARB control data
  • Clarifies that all panels must be tested in an unfinished condition, before the application of a topcoat or finishing, as soon as possible after their production, but no later than 30 calendar days after the samples were produced, for consistency with § 770.20(c)(3) and CARB
  • Adds an intermediate range value of 0.038 and an upper range value of 0.052 for C in the equation for equivalence of ASTM D6007-14 with ASTM E1333-14 (§ 770.20 ‘Equivalence Determination’) to fully align with CARB 

Highlights of updates to voluntary consensus standards in the proposed rule are summarized in Table 1.

87 FR 17963, March 29, 2022
EPA 40 CFR Part 770
Proposed Rule: Voluntary Consensus Standards Update; Formaldehyde Emission Standards for Composite Wood Products


Current Standard

Proposed New Standard

1ANSI/HPVA HP-1-2016
ANSI/HPVA HP-1-2020 ‘Hardwood and decorative hardwood’
2ASTM D5055-16
ASTM D5055-19e1 ‘Standard specification for establishing and monitoring structural capacities of prefabricated wood I-joists’
3ASTM D5456-14b
ASTM D5456-21e1 ‘Standard specification for evaluation of structural composite lumber products’
4BS EN ISO 12460-3:2015(E)
BS EN ISO 12460-3:2020 ‘Wood-based panels. Determination of formaldehyde release by Gas analysis method’

ISO 12460-3:2020 ‘Wood-based panels – Determination of formaldehyde release – Part 3: gas analysis method’
5JIS A 1460:2015(E)
JIS A 1460:2021
PS-1-19 ‘Structural plywood’
7PS-2-10PS-2-18 ‘Performance standard for wood structural panels’

Table 1

According to the proposed rule, comments will be accepted until April 28, 2022.

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