Sunday, July 14, 2013

EPA Title VI Regulations for Formaldehyde: Don’t Panic

One of my favorite books growing up was Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy with its iconic “Don’t Panic” logo on the cover. I’m going to use that as my mantra when addressing the EPA’s Title VI regulations regarding formaldehyde emissions.
At the end of May, the EPA released its proposed regulations for how the Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) Title VI program will work. The EPA program is intended to mirror the California Air Resources Board (CARB) CA93120 program, which regulates formaldehyde emissions from composite wood products, including hardwood plywood (HWPW), medium-density fiberboard (MDF) and particleboard (PB). The CARB program applies to manufacturers, distributors, importers, fabricators, retailers and third-party certifiers of composite wood products and finished goods that contain composite wood products destined for the California market.
I believe the major differences between the two programs fall into these three categories:
1.      Materials required for qualification
2.      Quality system requirements
3.      Administration
In this blog, I’m going to focus on the EPA’s definition of a laminated product. Section 40 CFR 770.3 of the proposed regulations defines a laminated product as a product in which a wood or woody grass veneer is affixed to a PB platform, an MDF platform or a veneer core platform. This is significant because a company that purchases HWPW, PB or MDF and then proceeds to laminate wood veneers onto that product is now a “manufacturer” and needs certification to the Title VI requirements.
The question I’m hearing most from our clients is: “What sort of laminate materials fit into this category?” The background material provided with the release of the regulations explains that the EPA is proposing to exempt some, but not all, laminated products. The EPA has data related to vinyl, paper, melamine and polyethylene laminates that justifies their exemption from the regulations. They do not have data for wood veneer laminates. In fact, except for one section on engineered veneers, the background documentation discusses wood veneers. So the question remains: Does laminating products, like applying Formica to particleboard to create a countertop, make you a plywood manufacturer who’s subject to the new regulations?
The EPA has requested that public comments related to their regulations be submitted by Sept. 9, 2013, on docket EPA-HQ-OPPT-2012-001 at www.regulations.gov. My key takeaway is “Don’t panic.” Instead, submit your comments to the EPA and provide them with the necessary justification to exempt additional materials. Even if a specific material is not exempted, there will be options under the “no-added formaldehyde (NAF)” section of the program.

NTA will be participating in the comment process and we’ll continue to monitor the impact of the regulations on our clients. Keep visiting this site for my future blogs regarding the EPA formaldehyde regulations.

UPDATE: August 21, 2013  
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is extending the public comment periods for two proposed regulations that implement the Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Products Act, or Title VI of the Toxic Substances Control Act. Both proposed rules initially published on June 10, 2013. The first notice extends the comment period for the Formaldehyde; Third-Party Certification Framework for the Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Products proposal from August 26, 2013 to September 25, 2013. The second notice extends the comment period for the Formaldehyde Emissions Standards for Composite Wood Products proposal from September 9, 2013 to October 9, 2013.  


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