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Formaldehyde Emission Standards for Composite Wood Products

Rule Summary

On December 12, 2016, EPA published in the Federal Register a final rule to reduce exposure to formaldehyde emissions from certain wood products produced domestically or imported into the United States. EPA worked with the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to help ensure the final national rule was consistent with California’s requirements for similar composite wood products. 

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

Beginning June 1, 2018, composite wood products sold, supplied, offered for sale, manufactured, or imported in the United States are required to be labeled as CARB ATCM Phase II or TSCA Title VI compliant. Beginning on March 22, 2019, composite wood products 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. 

By including provisions for laminated products, product-testing requirements, labeling, recordkeeping, and import certification, the final rule ensures that hardwood plywood, medium-density fiberboard, and particleboard products sold, supplied, offered for sale, imported to, or manufactured in the United States are in compliance with the emission standards.

The final rule also established a third-party certification program for laboratory testing and oversight of formaldehyde emissions from manufactured and/or imported composite wood products.

Rule Amendments

Product Labeling Amendment

On July 11, 2017, EPA published a direct final rule to remove a provision in the formaldehyde final rule that prohibited early labeling of compliant products. The Agency received no adverse comments on the direct final rule or proposed rule; therefore, it became effective on August 25, 2017. 

Removal of the prohibition on early labeling allows regulated entities to voluntarily label compliant products as soon as compliance can be achieved. 

Compliance Date Amendment

On March 13, 2018, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California issued an order addressing the litigation over the December 12, 2018 compliance date for the formaldehyde standards for composite wood products.  Read the Federal Register notice on the court order.

Following that court order and joint stipulation document, the relevant compliance dates are as follows:

  • By June 1, 2018, regulated composite wood panels and finished products containing such composite wood panels that are manufactured (in the United States) or imported (into the United States) must be certified as compliant with either the TSCA Title VI or the California Air Resources Board (CARB) Airborne Toxic Control Measures (ATCM) Phase II emission standards, which are set at identical levels, by a third-party certifier (TPC) approved by CARB and recognized by EPA. Previously, these products were required to be TSCA Title VI compliant by December 12, 2018.
  • Until March 22, 2019, regulated products certified as compliant with the CARB ATCM Phase II emission standards must be labeled as compliant with either the TSCA Title VI or the CARB ATCM Phase II emission standards.  Regulated products manufactured in or imported into the United States after March 22, 2019 may not rely on the CARB reciprocity of 40 CFR 770.15(e) and must be certified and labeled as TSCA Title VI compliant by an EPA TSCA Title VI TPC with all of the required accreditations.
  • After March 22, 2019, CARB-approved TPCs must comply with additional accreditation requirements in order to remain recognized as an EPA TSCA Title VI TPC and to continue certifying products as TSCA Title VI compliant.

The following dates from the September 25, 2017 compliance date extension final rule remain in effect:

  • Import certification provisions to March 22, 2019; it was previously December 12, 2018.
  • Laminated product producer provisions to March 22, 2024; it was previously December 12, 2023.
  • Conclusion of the transition period for CARB TPCs to March 22, 2019; it was previously December 12, 2018.

Read the Federal Register notice on the court order.

Voluntary Consensus Standards Amendment

On February 7, 2018, EPA published a final rule to update several voluntary consensus standards listed at 40 CFR § 770.99 and incorporated them by reference in the Formaldehyde Emission Standards for Composite Wood Products rule. Read the voluntary consensus standards final rule in the Federal Register.

These updates apply to emission testing methods and regulated composite wood product construction characteristics. Several of those voluntary consensus standards (i.e., technical specifications for products or processes developed by standard-setting bodies) were updated, withdrawn, and/or superseded through the normal course of business by these bodies to take into account new information, technology, and methodologies.

Additionally, the final rule amends the rule at 40 CFR § 770.20(d) by allowing the formaldehyde emissions mill quality control test methods to correlate to either the ASTM E1333-14 test method or, upon a showing of equivalence, the ASTM D6007-14 test method. The correction aligns the mill quality control testing requirements with the California Air Resources Board standards allowing mill quality control tests to be correlated to the more commonly used ASTM D6007-14 test method. The final rule also clarifies that test data generated beginning December 12, 2016 may be used to establish the required annual equivalence and correlation until new annual equivalence and correlations are required. Beginning on February 7, 2018, new data used to establish annual equivalence and correlations must be generated using the updated test methods and standards referenced in the final rule.

Technical Issues Rulemaking

EPA is proposing a rule to amend several technical requirements in the December 12, 2016 final formaldehyde rule. Read the Federal Register notice announcing the proposed rule

The proposed amendments would further align EPA’s TSCA Title VI program with the CARB's ATCM Phase II program and address technical issues that would provide clarity on certain rule provisions.  These include:  

  • Removing annual correlations between the Third-Party Certifiers (TPCs) chamber and the mill quality control (QC) chamber;
  • Allowing equivalence on like size or similar model chambers at TPC lab and mill;
  • Averaging of emission test results from quarterly testing;
  • Establishing testing emission ranges;
  • Allowing for equivalence only if mill uses TPC to conduct all testing;
  • Updating correlational coefficients and “r” value alternatives;
  • Updating the notification of exceedance of quality control limit;
  • Updating NAF and ULEF exemption testing requirements;
  • Updating to the ISO 17025-2017 and 17011-2017 voluntary consensus standards;
  • Updating text in the non-complying lot provisions;
  • Clarifying that labels on compliant products are required at point of entry in the U.S.; and
  • Clarifying the June 1, 2018 manufactured-by date following the court ruling in 2017.

EPA will take public comments on the proposed rule in docket EPA-HQ-OPPT-2018-0174 on regulations.gov through December 3, 2018. EPA will consider all relevant comments to develop a final rule and an accompanying response to comments document.

Rule History

On July 7, 2010, President Obama signed the Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Products Act into law. On June 10, 2013, EPA proposed two regulations:

The two proposed rules were combined for the final rule to consolidate requirements into a single rule to help regulated entities and other interested parties better understand how various requirements are related without having to cross-reference between two separate rules.​

Additional Resources

Visit our Resources, Guidance Materials for the Formaldehyde Emission Standards for Composite Wood Products Rule page for additional information about the formaldehyde emission standards rule including factsheets, questions and answers and small entitiy compliance guides.