Release 08-90
October 6, 2008

    Dimitri Stanich
New requirements for composite wood effective January 1, 2009
Three months to coming deadline

SACRAMENTO: The California Air Resources Board is alerting the composite-wood industry that the phase-in process for regulations limiting formaldehyde emissions from their products begins with the New Year.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2009, the first phase of the regulation requires that manufacturers produce panels of hardwood plywood, particle board, medium density fiberboard and thin medium-density fiberboard for the California market that meet the required low levels of formaldehyde. This will be followed six months later by similar requirements for hardwood plywood with a composite core.

"These new regulations represent a historic step forward in reducing carcinogenic formaldehyde emissions that can collect over time indoors and pose threats to people's lungs and respiratory systems," said ARB Chairman Mary Nichols. "Everything from desks to cabinets to wall panels will soon be required to be constructed using cleaner resins, which will go a long way in providing safer environments in homes, businesses and other structures."

Recognized as the most stringent production-based standards in the world, these regulations will be implemented in two phases, requiring the increasingly stringent reductions to be fully implemented by 2012.

All businesses that manufacture, sell, use or supply composite-wood products to California will be subject to aspects of the regulations. These businesses include panel manufacturers, importers, distributors, retailers, and fabricators of finished goods. Only composite-wood products that meet the standards may be used in the fabrication of finished goods, such as furniture, cabinets, etc. once the sell-through provisions expire. The regulation allows for current stocks of non-compliant composite-wood inventories to be sold for a period of time in California.

The regulations are expected to increase the cost of four foot by eight foot panels by one to two dollars but they will dramatically reduce the public's exposure to this carcinogen. Phase-one will cut formaldehyde emissions by 180 tons-per-year and phase-two another 500 tons-per-year.

In addition to being a carcinogen, exposure to formaldehyde can cause headaches, nausea, and fatigue. Moderate levels of formaldehyde can cause a number of adverse health effects including temporary burning or itchy eyes and nose, stuffy nose and sore throat. At higher concentrations formaldehyde can irritate the lung's passageways and cause chest tightness, coughing, and wheezing. People with pre-existing respiratory and cardiac problems are especially susceptible to these effects.

The rules for composite-wood products and finished goods require compliance at each level of the commercial-distribution chain and the Air Resources Board's Enforcement Division personnel will be monitoring and enforcing this aspect throughout the state.

For more information on this regulation go to the website:

The Air Resources Board is a department of the California Environmental Protection Agency. ARB's mission is to promote and protect public health, welfare, and ecological resources through effective reduction of air pollutants while recognizing and considering effects on the economy. The ARB oversees all air pollution control efforts in California to attain and maintain health based air quality standards.