Tuesday, September 3, 2013

EPA Title VI Regulations for Formaldehyde: The CARB Discussion

On Aug. 1, 2013, the California Air Resource Board (CARB) hosted a discussion session related to the EPA’s proposed regulations for how the Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) Title VI program will work, and I was lucky enough to be a participant.
The EPA’s proposed regulations are currently in a comment period, which will end on Sept. 26 for the third-party certification regulation section, and on Oct. 9 for the formaldehyde emissions standard regulation section. While many industry groups have been meeting to discuss the regulations and their potential impact, the CARB-hosted meeting was the largest public gathering to date.
Since the EPA program is intended to mirror CA93120 program, CARB started the meeting with a presentation pointing out the key differences between the two programs, which was extremely helpful.
The hottest topic of discussion was the inclusion of laminators as “manufacturers” of hardwood plywood. This is due to the EPA adopting the American National Standard for Hardwood and Decorative Plywood, ANSI/HPVA HP-1-2009 definition of plywood into the TSCA Title VI program. So, according to this definition, if you apply a wood or woody grass veneer to a veneer core or composite core panel, you’re manufacturing plywood. Cores described in ANSI/HPVA HP-1 include lumber core, particleboard core, medium-density fiberboard core, hardboard core or special core. ANSI/HPVA HP-1 is not clear on what a special core is other than it’s made of “other materials” must meet all the requirements of the standard.
What’s the implication of this definition? A furniture manufacturer that laminates wood veneers to an already EPA-certified medium-density panel must now demonstrate that the panel is still compliant — in other words, have it recertified — because now this furniture company is also a plywood manufacturer.
Currently, there are a few hundred CARB-certified products in the marketplace. Under the EPA-proposed regulations, this number would most likely be in the thousands, with the cost to the industry increasing proportionately, assuming there’s enough testing capacity. Of course, the other side of this coin is that laminating a veneer could very well increase the formaldehyde emissions of the panels, therefore justifying a retest of the product.
At this point, only wood and woody grasses are included in the proposed regulations. The background material released with the regulations identified paper, vinyl and melamine veneers as exempt from the regulations.

Remember: You have until Oct. 9 to submit your comments on docket EPA-HQ-OPPT-2012-001 at www.regulations.gov. Let your voice be heard.

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