During its January 29, 2009, public meeting, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) heard comments regarding its investigation into determining whether and what type of regulatory action may be appropriate to protect against risks posed by formaldehyde emitted from composite wood products.The meeting was in response to a Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Section 21 citizens’ petition, submitted by the Sierra Club, a number of other environmental organizations, as well as a large number of private citizens, and sought comment and additional information on the petition. The petitioners asked the EPA to assess and reduce the risks posed by formaldehyde emissions from these products as well adopt and apply the California formaldehyde emissions regulation for composite wood products nationally, specifically hardwood plywood, particleboard and medium-density fiberboard.

Public comments could be submitted to the EPA either by mail, on-line or by attending one of six public-hearing sessions, including a recently added meeting in New Orleans.

Approximately 45 association and company representatives attended the meeting at the EPA headquarters in Washington, D.C., in order to respond to the EPA’s request for comment on “Formaldehyde Emissions from Composite Wood Products.”

Speakers included representatives from the American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA), the Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association (KCMA), the Hardwood Plywood and Veneer Association (HPVA), the Composite Panel Association (CPA), the American Home Furnishings Alliance (AHFA), the Formaldehyde Council Inc. (FCI), Jeld-Wen Corp., Roseburg Forest Products and the Sierra Club.

While most speakers acknowledged the importance of industry-wide regulation to ensure that formaldehyde emissions from composite wood are at the lowest levels possible, they also spoke of the hardships involved with implementing the formaldehyde emissions regulation that had been recently approved and implemented by the California Air Resources Board (CARB).

In addition, most speakers acknowledged adherence to the existing regulations set forth by CARB, and the overwhelming consensus was that while it would be a costly hardship to implement CARB on a national level, something was going to be needed in order to create a “level-playing field.” Numerous speakers spoke of their fear that if not for a federal regulation, they may be undercut in price by foreign suppliers who may be able to offer composite wood products cheaper, since they would not have to upgrade their technologies in order to meet the strict emissions standards.

“The same criteria should apply to domestic and international products,” argued Ray Garris of JELD-WEN Corp.

Others argued for prompt resolution of the formaldehyde issue. “It’s time to end the debate. We want a line drawn,” said Kelly Shotbolt, president of Flakeboard Co. Ltd.

Conversely, AAMA’s codes and industry affairs manager Chuck Anderson argued against the EPA’s adoption of CARB on a national level, arguing that the regulations are unclear, that formaldehyde emissions from composite wood is relatively low and that any regulation would be difficult to enforce. Anderson argued that rather than adopt CARB, the EPA should instead develop a performance-based standard that has the objective of reducing human exposure to formaldehyde, regardless of the source of formaldehyde emissions.

The EPA has extended the comment period from February 2 to March 19, 2009, in order to provide the public with an opportunity to provide additional comments and to garner greater participation.

The last public meeting is scheduled to occur on March 4, 2009, at the Sheraton New Orleans Hotel in New Orleans, La., from 1 p.m. – 5 p.m.

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