EPA reconsiders standard for laminated products
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April 16, 2014
EPA reconsiders standard for laminated products

The EPA has requested comments on several alternative provisions for formaldehyde emissions standards for laminated products, which were included in the Agency’s June 2013 proposed formaldehyde emissions standards for composite wood products. 

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According to the EPA, multiple industry associations objected to the Agency’s approach in the proposal to consider laminated products (with some exceptions) a subset of hardwood plywood and, therefore, subject to the same emissions and testing standards.  Commenters included the California Air Resources Board (CARB), which is developing its own alternative approach for laminated products made with wood veneer. 

Third-party certification

EPA’s proposal includes a framework to ensure that manufacturers of composite wood products meet the emissions standards by having their composite wood products certified through an accredited third party.  By including laminated products in the hardwood plywood category, EPA’s proposal would require a recertification process for laminated products.  The problem was presented this way in comments on the proposal by the American Home Furnishings Alliance (AHFA):

“As written, the proposed rule adds an additional point of certification for fabricators.  Fabricators are consumers of certified composite wood products (medium-density fiberboard, particle board, hardwood plywood) who further improve the emissions characteristics of these certified composite panels by the value added process of finishing. The rule will require fabricators to recertify the intermediate laminated products as if they were manufacturers of composite wood panels before the product is finished.”

CARB approach

The recertification requirement would impose significant testing obligations on fabricators of laminated products.  As the CARB points out, hardwood plywood panels are produced by several hundred mills worldwide while laminated products are produced by fabricators that number in the tens of thousands.  “There is not sufficient third-party certification/testing capacity to require fabricators to be subject to similar testing requirements as panel producers.”

According to the AHFA, the Agency’s proposal would impose $210 million in new compliance costs on the 7,000 manufacturing facilities in the U.S. furniture industry.

New options

As a result of the comments, the EPA is requesting feedback on potential modifications to its proposal by incorporating one or a combination of the following:

  • CARB’s latest proposal,
  • A reduced testing program for laminated products,
  • A self-certification program for laminated products,,
  • An exemption of laminated products from the definition of hardwood plywood, and
  • An exemption from testing and certification requirements for all laminated products or just those made by low-volume producers.

The Agency is also requesting comment and information on what an appropriate production volume threshold for testing and certification might be; whether third-party certification should be required for laminated products if emissions testing for these products is required; what emissions standard, if any, would be appropriate for laminated products; and whether laminated products should be grouped for testing purposes.

The EPA will accept comments on its notice until June 10, 2014. 

The notice was published in the April 8, 2014, FR.

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