Composite Wood ATCM: Background

This page last reviewed December 4, 2007

What is the AB 1807 Toxic Air Contaminant Program?

In 1983, the California Legislature established a two-step process (AB 1807) of risk identification and risk management to address the potential health effects from airborne toxic substances and to reduce their risks.  During the first step, the Air Resources Board (ARB) and the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) determine if a substance meets the definition of a toxic air contaminant, and to what extent.  If a substance is determined to be a toxic air contaminant, the ARB begins the process of risk management.  In this step, the ARB evaluates the need, feasibility, and cost of reducing emissions of a particular substance.

When was formaldehyde identified as a toxic air contaminant?

Formaldehyde was identified as a toxic air contaminant by the ARB on March 12, 1992, and the OEHHA determined that no safe exposure threshold level exsisted for formaldehyde to preclude cancer.  The U.S. EPA has classified formaldehyde as a "probable human carcinogen" under conditions of high or prolonged exposure.  The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) also concluded that formaldehyde is a probable human carcinogen.

Why is ARB focusing on composite wood products?

During the identification of formaldehyde in 1992, the ARB evaluated formaldehyde exposure in California and found that one of the major sources of exposure is from inhalation of formaldehyde emitted from formaldehyde resin containing composite wood products.  An estimated 2.5 billion square feet of composite wood products (such as particleboard, medium density fiberboard, hardwood plywood, and composite veneer) are sold in California annually.  While the ARB recognizes that other formaldehyde emission sources exist (such as vehicles, environmental tobacco smoke, and stationary sources), emissions from composite wood products also contribute to an individual's daily exposure to formaldehyde.

For more information, please view our fact sheet.