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Congress Passes Federal Formaldehyde Legislation

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AHFA announced that the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Products Act, a bipartisan bill that incorporates aspects of the California formaldehyde standard. The bill cleared the Senate earlier this month and will now be sent to the President for his signature.

The regulation applies to hardwood plywood, particleboard and medium density fiberboard and all products made with these as component parts.

The American Home Furnishings Alliance, along with environmental, health and industry stakeholders, worked for more than seven years with the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to establish lower limits for formaldehyde in composite wood products. AHFA continues to work directly with CARB staff to outline and define enforcement and testing methods as the various phases of the California rule are implemented. 

AHFA also worked closely with Congress as the federal formaldehyde legislation was crafted. The bill directs the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to establish implementation, testing and compliance provisions for the standard that can be implemented on a national level.

“While we have made steady, incremental achievements, compliance challenges remain with the California standard, and we will work with EPA to address those same challenges in the new federal standard,” notes AHFA Vice President Bill Perdue. 

“AHFA has already begun to provide relevant input and data to the EPA, and we will continue working closely with agency staff in an effort to ensure that key industry concerns are addressed.”

Chief among AHFA’s challenges with the California rule was establishing adequate sell-through periods for non-compliant products as the lower emission limits were phased in.

“Establishing adequate sell-through provisions will be even more critical with the federal rule,” Perdue points out. “Unlike in California, where non-compliant inventories could be moved to other markets, there is no pragmatic solution to non-compliant inventories within the national marketplace.”

The unprecedented economic conditions in the last few years have left manufacturers with higher than normal inventories, exacerbating the potential problem for companies with non-compliant products. “AHFA has requested a sell-through period of 36 months for finished goods following the compliance deadline for composite wood products,” Perdue states.

A second challenge with the federal formaldehyde standard will be establishing reasonable testing and compliance provisions, according to the AHFA.

“Initially, as part of its enforcement strategy, CARB proposed a finished product testing requirement. This would have required furniture manufacturers to test and meet the emission requirements for all furniture sold into California – and that would have been a very costly proposition,” Perdue explains.

“There is no established test protocol for finished products, and the data collected could not be benchmarked against the proposed emissions requirements, since those pertain only to individual composite wood products.”

AHFA successfully argued for elimination of the finished product testing requirement from the California rule. “We have already discussed this issue with the EPA and have recommended that the federal compliance rules not contain any provisions for the testing of finished goods, such as furniture or cabinets.

“If raw board component parts are properly regulated, downstream users of these products, including home furnishings manufacturers and retailers, eventually will have only compliant products in their inventories,” says Perdue.

The American Home Furnishings Alliance, based in High Point, N.C., is the largest association of home furnishings companies in the world and represents more than 200 leading furniture manufacturers and distributors, plus about 150 suppliers to the furniture industry worldwide.

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