EPA Announces New Formaldehyde Standards

The Environmental Protection Agency last week announced a new rule aimed at curbing exposure to formaldehyde used in wood products.

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The Environmental Protection Agency last week announced a new rule aimed at curbing exposure to formaldehyde used in wood products.

The final rule, issued Wednesday, implements a 2010 law that directed the agency to regulate formaldehyde emissions from composite wood products.

The standard will take effect one year from its publication date and will require products containing hardwood plywood, medium-density fiberboard and particleboard to be labeled as "TSCA Title VI compliant."

The EPA rule will also establish new requirements for product testing and create qualifications for third-party certification. The rule was crafted to conform to standards previously set by the California Air Resources Board.

"The new rule will level the playing field for domestic manufacturers who have a high rate of compliance with the California standard and will ensure that imported products not subject to California’s requirements will meet the new standard and thus not contain dangerous formaldehyde vapors," said Jim Jones, assistant administrator for the EPA's Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention.

Formaldehyde is a common wood product adhesive, but it is also linked to cancer and can cause respiratory symptoms and eye, nose and throat irritation. The chemical was at the center of the scandal over Chinese-made laminate flooring sold by Lumber Liquidators, which investigators alleged contained elevated formaldehyde levels.

Although the rule includes exemptions for low levels of formaldehyde use, an industry group told The New York Times that those caveats also included strict testing requirements.

“It’s not a ‘get out of jail free’ pass,” Bill Perdue of the American Home Furnishings Alliance told the paper.

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