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California Air Resources Board (CARB)

UPDATE - July 30, 2008


The California Air Resources Board (CARB) has finalized and approved an Airborne Toxics Control Measure (ATCM) to reduce formaldehyde emissions from composite wood products such as hardwood plywood, particleboard, medium density fiberboard, and also from doors, windows, furniture and other finished products with composite wood parts. This is largely achieved by requiring manufacturers to meet new, stringent formaldehyde emission standards for hardwood plywood, particleboard, and medium density fiberboard panels that are sold, offered for sale, supplied, or manufactured for use in California, and requiring their use in finished goods sold, offered for sale, supplied or manufactured for sale in California.

Beginning January 1, 2009, new "Phase 1” formaldehyde emission standards take effect for hardwood plywood, particleboard, and medium density fiberboard. More stringent "Phase 2” emission standards for hardwood plywood, particleboard, and medium density fiberboard are to be phased in between 2010 and 2012. CARB anticipates that manufacturers will meet the Phase 1 standards by using resin technologies that are similar to those in use today. To meet the Phase 2 standards, manufacturers will likely need to use modified current day urea formaldehyde resin systems, no-added formaldehyde (NAF) or ultra-low-emitting formaldehyde (ULEF) resin systems.

The ATCM applies not only to manufacturers, but also to distributors, importers, fabricators, and retailers that sell, offer for sale, or supply hardwood plywood, particleboard, and medium density fiberboard panels, or finished goods containing those materials, for use in California. The ATCM does not apply to panels or finished goods that are manufactured or sold for shipment and use outside of California. The ATCM also does not apply to hardwood plywood and particleboard materials when installed in manufactured homes and subject to regulations promulgated by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Manufacturers of composite wood products are required to demonstrate compliance with the new formaldehyde emission standards by being certified by an independent party known as a "third party certifier.” Third party certifiers must be approved by ARB and follow specified requirements to verify that a manufacturers’ production meets applicable formaldehyde emission standards. Compliance testing flexibility is provided to manufacturers that elect to manufacture panels using either NAF or ULEF resins. Manufacturers would also be required to label their hardwood plywood, particleboard, and medium density fiberboard panels to identify them as meeting either the Phase 1 or Phase 2 emission standards, or as being made with either NAF or ULEF resins.

Distributors, importers, fabricators, and retailers are required to purchase and sell panels and finished goods that comply with applicable formaldehyde emission standards. They are required to take "reasonable prudent precautions” (such as communicating with their suppliers) to ensure that the products they purchase are in compliance with applicable formaldehyde emission standards. In addition, distributors and importers must keep records showing the date of purchase and the supplier of the product(s), and document what precautions were taken to ensure that the products comply with applicable formaldehyde emission standards. Fabricators are also required to label their finished goods to denote that they comply with applicable Phase 1 or Phase 2 emission standards, if the finished good contains hardwood plywood, particleboard, or medium density fiberboard and will be sold, offered for sale, or supplied for use in California. If the finished good is made exclusively from hardwood plywood, particleboard, or medium density fiberboard made with NAF or ULEF resins, then the finished good must be labeled accordingly.

Industry Concerns

Costs, compliance, testing and certification requirements — and the over-arching question of enforcement — are the industries biggest concerns as the regulation heads for implementation. The ability to accurately and adequately inspect imported board and finished product is another concern. CARB commissioners directed staff to report back to them next year on the workability of the enforcement measures. At the same time, the new regulation’s requirement of third-party certification is something new in the agency’s regulatory approach.


California Air Resources Board

CARB Rulemaking to Consider Adoption of the Proposed Airborne Toxic Control Measure (ATCM) to Reduce Formaldehyde Emmisions from Composite Wood Products

California Air Resources Board Airborne Toxic Control Measure (ATCM) Fact Sheet

What the New CARB Rule Means for You--A Quick Reference Guide to the California Air Resources Board’s Air Toxic Control Measure (ATCM) for Formaldehyde Emissions from Composite Wood Products (reproduced with the permission of the Composite Panel Association)

Additional Adopted Amendments

The ATCM adopted by the Board includes the following modifications from the original proposal;

  • Producers of architectural plywood and fabricators that apply a laminate to a composite wood product are now considered as fabricators of "laminated products.” These fabricators only need to verify that they use a complying core or platform. A definition for "laminated products” has also been added.
  • The definition of "composite wood products” was modified to clarify which products do not fall under the definition of "composite wood products” and to include "composite wood products” used inside of new recreational vehicles.
  • The Phase 2 implementation date for hardwood plywood with a veneer core (HWPW-VC) was changed from January 1, 2011 to January 1, 2010. The sell-through dates were modified to be consistent with this change.
  • Specificity was added to the provisions for manufacturers of composite wood products that use NAF resins, including emissions performance criteria, how to qualify for an exemption from third party certification, and information required to apply for approval to use such resins.
  • Additional recordkeeping requirements were also added for manufacturers that use NAF resins or ULEF resins.
  • In a separate provision of the ATCM, criteria were added to allow third party certifiers to re-apply to maintain their status as an approved certifier.
  • Exemptions were added for local governments and school districts; and for water resistant exterior doors and garage doors that contain composite wood products.
  • Requirements were clarified for fabricators that manufacture composite wood products for use by the fabricator in making finished goods, such as a hardwood flooring company.
  • Additional language was added to allow the use of a secondary test method by third party certifiers in developing correlations with quality control test methods used by composite wood product manufacturers. Also, the section was modified to allow ARB to use the secondary test method for enforcement purposes.
  • In the sell-through provisions, the dates were changed for manufacturers of raw boards from one month to three months, for importers of raw boards from five months to three months, and for fabricators of finished goods from twelve months to eighteen months.

In addition to the modifications described above, various modifications to the regulatory text have been made to add specificity and flexibility, and to improve overall clarity.

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