Federal Court Okays Formaldehyde Regulation Agreement

March 15th, 2018 by Editor

A federal court in California signed an agreement this week between the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Sierra Club and industry groups that sets a June 1, 2018 compliance deadline for a controversial federal formaldehyde rule.

The Window and Door Manufacturers Association (WDMA) was one of the industry groups that took part in the settlement because the regulations cover composite wood products and finished goods that are used in many types of doors and windows.

The agreement says that after June 1, 2018, composite wood products manufactured or imported must be in compliance with the formaldehyde rule. However, composite wood products and finished goods that comply with the California Air Resources Board’s “CARB Phase 2” will be considered certified under the federal regulation until March 22, 2019. The emissions requirements in the CARB Phase 2 regulation are the same as those in the federal regulation (TSCA Title VI).

“Ensuring that CARB Phase 2 compliance be considered certified under the federal regulation until March of next year was essential to our support of the agreement,” said Jeff Inks, WDMA senior vice president of advocacy. “CARB-compliant products which meet the EPA emissions requirements are already prevalent and extensively used in finished goods, so much of the concern was ensuring adequate time for manufacturers to certify products and finished goods as compliant under EPA’s new certification and labeling requirements.”

The case started last fall when the Sierra Club sued EPA after the agency extended the compliance date from December 12, 2017 to December 12, 2018. In its suit, the Sierra Club claimed that EPA exceeded its authority in extending the date. On February 16, the court agreed and ruled that the delay “is beyond the scope of the EPA’s authority and is not in accordance with the Formaldehyde Act.”

The court’s action left the compliance date up in the air, leading to concerns that a new date could disrupt the supply chain of composite wood products or render some inventories useless. The court gave the Sierra Club and EPA until March 9 to reach an agreement on a new date. WDMA and other trade organizations joined the case to help reach an agreement.

“While we strongly disagreed with the original position of the Sierra Club, this agreement will allow our members to plan accordingly for compliance with the rule with less disruption,” said Inks.

The EPA first established a national rule for  reducing exposure to formaldehyde vapors from wood products in July 2016. The agency worked with the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to ensure that the final national rule is consistent with the state’s requirements for composite wood products.

The Formaldehyde Emission Standards for Composite Wood Products Act of 2010 set emission standards for formaldehyde from composite wood products. It ordered EPA to set a rule on implementing and enforcing provisions covering composite wood products.

The rule states that composite wood products that are sold, supplied, offered for sale, manufactured or imported in the United States must be labeled as TSCA Title VI-compliant. These products include hardwood plywood, medium-density fiberboard and particleboard, as well as household and other finished goods containing these products, such as doors, windows, moulding and trim.

EPA also set testing requirements to ensure that products comply with those standards, establish eligibility requirements for third-party certifiers, and set eligibility requirements for accreditation bodies to be recognized by EPA that will accredit the third-party certifiers. The new rule also includes exemptions for products made with ultra-low formaldehyde or no-added formaldehyde resins and new requirements for product labeling, recordkeeping and enforcement.

Formaldehyde is used as an adhesive in many wood products. Exposure to formaldehyde can cause eye, nose and throat irritation, other respiratory symptoms and cancer.

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