The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed two rules it says will help protect Americans from exposure to formaldehyde. The rules aim to ensure that composite wood products produced domestically or imported into the U.S. meet the formaldehyde-emission standards established by Congress.

“The proposed regulations announced today reflect EPA’s continued efforts to protect the public from exposure to harmful chemicals in their daily lives,” says James J. Jones, EPA’s acting assistant administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. “Once final, the rules will reduce the public’s exposure to this harmful chemical found in many products in our homes and workplaces.”

According to EPA, its first proposal “limits the amount of formaldehyde that may be emitted from hardwood plywood, medium-density fiberboard, particleboard and finished goods sold, supplied, offered for sale, manufactured or imported in the U.S.” A statement from EPA says the “emitted formaldehyde may be left over from the resin or composite-wood-making process or be released when the resin degrades in the presence of heat and humidity.” The proposal also includes testing requirements, laminated-product provisions, product-labeling requirements, chain-of-custody documentation, recordkeeping, a stockpiling prohibition and enforcement provisions in addition to “exemption from some testing and recordkeeping requirements for products made with no-added-formaldehyde resins.”

EPA says the second proposal “establishes a third-party certification framework designed to ensure that manufacturers of composite wood products meet the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) formaldehyde-emission standards by having their composite wood products certified though an accredited third-party certifier. It would also establish eligibility requirements and responsibilities for third-party certifier’s and the EPA-recognized accreditation bodies who would accredit them.”

According to EPA’s formaldehyde factsheet, it says, “Most manufacturers are already following requirements for composite wood products already in place in California so that they are able to sell in any state. The EPA proposals provide one national standard thus preventing a patchwork of different state requirements and providing a level playing-field between states and between American companies and importers. EPA estimates that formaldehyde concentrations in new and renovated homes will be reduced by 9 percent to 25 percent when the rules are final. EPA also anticipates that the proposed rules will encourage the ongoing trend by industry towards switching to no-added formaldehyde resins in products.”

In 2010, Congress approved the Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Products Act (S. 1660). The bill directs EPA to regulate formaldehyde emissions from composite wood products under the TSCA, imposes key provisions of the California Air Resources Board (CARB) rule at the federal level and gives the federal government authority to regulate formaldehyde in both domestic and imported wood products.

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