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Formaldehyde Emissions from Composite Wood Products to Be Reduced

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) has adopted Title 17, § 93120 -The Airborne Toxic Control Measure to Reduce Formaldehyde Emissions from Composite Wood Products (ATCM). This regulation requires manufacturers of regulated products to ensure compliance through third party certification, provide documentation, and label products as compliant. This regulation only applies to products to be sold in California.

What Products Are Covered by This ATCM?

This regulation applies to the following composite wood products:

  • Hardwood plywood (HWPW)
  • Medium density fiberboard (MDF) – as defined by ANSI
  • Particleboard (PB)

It also applies to finished goods made from those materials, such as:


Why Are These Products Being Regulated?

The composite wood products listed above are traditionally made with urea formaldehyde resins. Unreacted formaldehyde can be released into the air, exposing people to formaldehyde at work, home, and elsewhere. Formaldehyde is a carcinogen (cancer-causing substance) as well as an upper respiratory irritant. CARB has determined that there is no safe level of exposure to formaldehyde.

Who Is Subject to the Regulation and When Does It Take Effect?

This ATCM applies to companies that manufacture, distribute, import, fabricate, sell, offer for sale or supply HWPW, PB, MDF, and finished goods containing those products for use in California. Phase 1 emission standards take effect on either January 1, 2009 or July 1, 2009, depending upon the composite wood product. Likewise, the more stringent Phase 2 emission standards take effect between January 1, 2010 and July 1, 2012.

This ATCM does not apply to manufacturers of panels or finished goods sold to areas outside of California. HWPW and PB used in manufactured homes will not be subject to this ATCM, but instead must comply with United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) regulations.  Provisions in the standard allow for some inventory clearance (sell-through) of noncompliant articles and materials for a limited amount of time.

What Is the Best Way to Comply With the New Standard?

Most products made from current resins should meet Phase 1 emissions standards. Alternative resins that meet Phase 2 standards are commercially available today, and more are expected to be available before 2010. Compliance with emission standards must be verified using a CARB approved third party certifier. Manufacturers who use “ultra-low-emitting” or “no added formaldehyde” resins can apply to CARB for approval to test their products less frequently or for an exemption to third party certification requirements.

Certified HWPW, PB, and MDF must be appropriately labeled. Fabricators must keep records and label their finished goods as made from certified raw materials. CARB or your local air quality district will enforce this ATCM.

While this ATCM was adopted to protect consumers from formaldehyde emissions, it should have the added benefit of reducing employee formaldehyde exposures at companies that manufacture the regulated products.

For More Information

The above evaluations and/or recommendations are for general guidance only and should not be relied upon for legal compliance purposes. They are based solely on the information provided to us and relate only to those conditions specifically discussed. We do not make any warranty, expressed or implied, that your workplace is safe or healthful or that it complies with all laws, regulations or standards.

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