EPA limits formaldehyde exposure
May 30, 2013, Washington, D.C. – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed two rules to help protect Americans from exposure to formaldehyde emitted from wood products.
At room temperature, formaldehyde is a colorless, flammable gas with a pungent smell and is used in the production of fertilizer, paper, plywood, and urea-formaldehyde resins. Exposure to it can cause adverse health effects including eye, nose and throat irritation, neurological symptoms, and cancer.
EPA’s first proposed rule limits how much formaldehyde may be emitted from hardwood plywood, medium-density fiberboard, particleboard and finished goods, that are sold, supplied, offered for sale, manufactured, or imported in the U.S.
It includes an exemption from some testing and recordkeeping requirements for products made with no added formaldehyde resins.
The second proposal establishes a third-party certification framework designed to ensure that manufacturers of composite wood products meet the Toxic Substances Control Act formaldehyde emission standards by having their composite wood products certified though an accredited third-party certifier.
This proposed third-party certification program is intended to ensure that composite wood products sold in this country meet the emission standards in the rule regardless of whether they were made in the U.S. or not.
Formaldehyde is used in adhesives that make up composite building materials such as hardwood plywood, medium-density fiberboard, particleboard, and finished goods containing these products. The emitted formaldehyde can 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 highest potential exposure occurs when workers breathe contaminated workplace air.
“The proposed regulations announced reflect EPA’s continued efforts to protect the public from exposure to harmful chemicals in their daily lives,” said 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.”
In 2010, Congress passed the Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Products Act, or Title VI of the Toxic Substances Control Act, which establishes emission standards for formaldehyde from composite wood products and directs EPA to propose rules to enforce the act’s provisions.
EPA’s proposed rules align, where practical, with the requirements for composite wood products set by the California Air Resources Board, putting in place national standards for companies that manufacture or import these products. Its national rules will also encourage an ongoing industry trend towards switching to no-added formaldehyde resins in composite wood products.
More on formaldehyde proposals visit, www.epa.gov.