EPA removes labeling prohibition for formaldehyde products
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July 14, 2017
EPA removes labeling prohibition for formaldehyde products

Stating that it wishes to prevent disruption to the supply chain, the EPA has issued a direct final rule allowing manufacturers (including importers), sellers, and suppliers of composite wood products to label these products as compliant with Title VI (the 2010 Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Products Act) of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) before December 12, 2017. The Agency says removal of the prohibition will have no impact on the ability of stakeholders to comply with the Agency’s final rule to implement the statutory formaldehyde emissions standards (December 12, 2016, FR) because stakeholders are currently labeling their products as compliant with California’s formaldehyde emissions standards, which means they are also meeting EPA’s standards. Under the direct final rule, labeling affected products as compliant with TSCA Title VI before December 12, 2017, will be voluntary.

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Implementation rule

The purpose of TSCA Title VI is to reduce formaldehyde emissions from composite wood products, specifically hardwood plywood, medium-density fiberboard, and particleboard, and finished goods containing these products. The Act itself set the formaldehyde emissions standards, which are identical to California’s Phase 2 formaldehyde emissions standards. The December 2016 implementation rule includes requirements for testing, product labeling, chain of custody documentation, enforcement, import certification, and product inventory sell-through provisions, including a product stockpiling prohibition. In addition, the final rule establishes a third-party certification program for laboratory testing and oversight of formaldehyde emissions from manufactured and/or imported composite wood products.

Distribution blocked

Also included in the final rule is a prohibition on labeling regulated formaldehyde products as TSCA Title VI-compliant before the December 12, 2017, compliance deadline. Industry raised concerns about this prohibition. For example, the Composite Panel Association noted that under the prohibition, it would be virtually impossible to manage inventories and shipping of panels so that labels could be changed in 1 day. The American Home Furnishings Association noted that this “ill-conceived prohibition on early labeling of compliant products will cause confusion and unnecessary burdens for panel producers, fabricators, distributors, and retailers who seek to roll out compliant inventory prior to the rule’s effective date.”

CARB compliance eases transition

In the direct final rule, the EPA now says that it shares these concerns.

“EPA believes that the risk of unintentional supply chain disruption is substantial, though through prompt regulatory action, avoidable,” the Agency states. “The Agency believes that removal of the labeling prohibition will have no impact on the ability of stakeholders to comply with the TSCA Title VI formaldehyde emission standards insofar as stakeholders are already working with their California Air Resources Board (CARB) approved Third Party Certifier (TPC) to ensure compliance with CARB’s Airborne Toxic Control Measures (ATCM) to reduce formaldehyde emissions from composite wood products, and as the stakeholders suggest, they are currently labeling composite wood products and finished goods containing composite wood products as CARB-compliant, and thus are also meeting the TSCA Title VI formaldehyde emission standards.”

The Agency adds that it expects the transition will be smooth for stakeholders already receiving certifications of product compliance by a CARB-approved TPC to also begin receiving product compliance certifications by EPA TSCA Title VI TPCs because EPA’s final rule provided reciprocity provisions under which a CARB-approved TPC may be recognized by the Agency as an EPA TSCA Title VI TPC.

The direct final rule was published in the July 11, 2017, FR.

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