EPA Compliance Dates Amended

The Environmental Protection Agency has created a prepublication of extending the dates that required labeling and testing must be performed. You can read the complete document here. When the final rule is issued the dates will be as follows:

  • The end of the transition period for CARB Third-Party Certifiers (TPCs)is being changed from December 12, 2018 to March 22, 2019
  • The requirement for import certification provisions is being changed from December 12, 2018 to March 22, 2019
  • The requirement for the emission standards, recordkeeping, and labeling provisions is being changed from December 12, 2017 to December 12, 2018
  • The deadline for laminated product producer provisions is being changed from December 12, 2023 to March 22, 2024

A Primer for Understanding Formaldehyde Regulations

What is Formaldehyde?

Formaldehyde is a naturally occurring chemical found in homes and buildings (and in your body if you overindulge in alcohol). Fortunately, it breaks down in the environment and within our bodies quickly. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, prolonged exposure to high levels of the compound can lead to respiratory issues and even cancer. Below is a list of common items that contain formaldehyde:

 

Examples of Common Environmental Emitters of Formaldehyde

Plywood, MDF, Particleboard Carpet Insulation Air Fresheners
Cigarettes/Tobacco Glues and Resins Gas Stoves/Ovens Household Cleaners
Architectural/LVL Lumber Fabric softeners Engineered/Laminate Floors Wood Stoves/Space Heaters
Wrinkle-Free Cloths Personal Care Products Furniture Coatings and Finishes
Cabinetry Latex Paint/Wallpaper Fabric Softeners Cosmetics

 

Forest Products and Formaldehyde

There are many forest products that emit formaldehyde into the environment. All of these products fall into what is classified as composite wood products. They are products that are made by combining multiple pieces of wood together using glue. The resin or glue that holds the products together are often the reason for the emission. For decades formaldehyde was utilized to control the speed that a resin hardened and cured, the more formaldehyde, the faster the resin cured. As regulations were put into place, the amount of formaldehyde was decreased and the conditions and methods used to create the composite wood products were more closely monitored.

 

Who Regulates this Stuff?

In 1984, HUD 24 CFR 3280.308 became the standard for manufactured homes in the U.S. and regulated the amount of allowable formaldehyde that could come from a product. Fast forward to 2008, and the California Air Resources Board created CARB ATCM 93120, that regulates products that can be imported and sold into the state of California. The CARB rule, regulated the allowable limits of formaldehyde and created a system of Third Party Certifiers (TPC) that certify the process a manufacturer utilizes to meet the standard. In 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) created the Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) Title VI, which regulates emission standards for all U.S. states and territories. TSCA Title VI also sets who can be a TPC and what the requirements of manufacturers, laminators, importers, distributors, and retailers are regarding the rule. Each set of rules, has their own detailed testing procedures, reporting standards, and document retention policies.

 

What is a TPC?

A TPC is an accredited company that verifies the accuracy of emission test procedures and facilities processes, evaluates and monitors the manufacturer/laminated product producer quality control programs, and provides independent audits and inspections of manufacturer/laminated product producer facilities. The TPCs must meet strict standards and be accredited to perform the duties required by the rules. Benchmark Holdings is an example of an accredited TPC for both CARB and TSCA Title VI.

 

What Does a TPC Do?

As part of both the requirements for TSCA Title VI and CARB ATCM 93120, TPCs evaluate the processes and procedures of companies who produce materials that fall under the rules. The TPC must perform a series of document reviews, laboratory and mill inspections, and product testing to make sure that all requirements are met. A mill’s process can then be certified, but certification is dependent on periodic testing, sampling, and inspections. Any failure to meet part of the requirements can lead to loss of certification.

EPA Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) Title VI

With the Environmental Protection Agency’s new Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) Title VI going into effect 12 December 2017, there are a lot of questions still unanswered about the Act. Fortunately, there are published answers regarding some elements of the rule. Here are the answers to some of the most common questions:

Who are some of the accreditation bodies?

 

Examples of EPA-approved Accreditation Bodies

American Association for Laboratory Accreditation (A2LA) Product certification and laboratory
ANSI-ASQ National Accreditation Board (ANAB) Laboratory only
International Accreditation Service (IAS) Product certification and laboratory
American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Product certification only

Who are third-party certifiers (TPC)?

An AB-accredited entity that:

  • Verifies the accuracy of emission test procedures and facilities used by HWPW, MDF, and PB manufacturers and laminated product producers to conduct formaldehyde quality control tests
  • Evaluates and monitors manufacturer/laminated product producer quality control programs
  • Provides independent audits and inspections of manufacturer/laminated product producer facilities, processes, and records

What are the limits for formaldehyde?

EPA TSCA Title VI Formaldehyde Emission Limits:

Formaldehyde Emission Limits: ppm
HWPW-VC 0.05
HWPW-CC 0.05
Particleboard 0.09
MDF >8mm thick 0.11
Thin-MDF ≤8mm thick 0.13
Laminated Products (wood/woody grass veneer attached to TSCA-certified platform) 0.05

Even though the rule does not go into effect until later in the year, labeling of the products can begin as early as 25 August 2017. Benchmark International has already begun preparing our clients for the new regulation, including creating a comprehensive training program. For more information, visit our webpage on EPA Regulations or contact us and see what we can customize for you.

Supply Chain Management: It’s not always about the species

 

Buying, trading, and selling wood is a global industry. From plantation grown species like Southern yellow pine (Pinus spp.) to species grown in South America like jatoba (Hymenaea courbaril) forest management is the key to sustainability. Understanding the supply chains that are associated with the products that are made from the forests is important. Recently, this has been highlighted by reports published by a Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO) on a species known as taun (Pometia pinnata). The report indicates that the supply chain for the species may not be as simple as once thought. In a report published by Global Witness, issues associated not with the species itself, but with how rights for harvesting the material are handled by certain governments is explored.

Before proceeding with new suppliers, new species or evaluating existing suppliers, it is important to examine the supply chain. This includes evaluations of who owns the forest, who has the right to harvest material, how the material is sold, and even how the material is processed, at a minimum.
For more information visit benchmark-intl.com/contact/

Statement to Clients Regarding Recent Stories About Benchmark Testing of Flooring Products

May 1, 2015

Dear Client/Stakeholder:

You may be hearing and reading stories concerning testing we did of flooring products for a client in Dallas, Texas.

We wanted you to hear directly from us what happened.

We were asked to test two flooring samples. We did.

The client did not tell us where the flooring was purchased or manufactured.

The client then violated our terms of agreement by releasing our report without proper approvals and inferring we knew the source of the flooring.

We did not.

All of our reports are clearly marked with this: “This report has been produced for the exclusive use of (client) and may not be reproduced except in its entirety, and only with the expressed, written approval of BMI. No one other than BMI’s client shall be entitled to rely on upon this report or the information contained herein.”

This client did not seek approval to release the data in the report.

We take the confidentiality of our client relationships very, very seriously. We are extremely unhappy this client violated that relationship. Therefore, we have terminated our relationship with this client and asked them to discontinue using this report and the data it contains.

If you have any questions, call me.

Travis R. Snapp
Managing Director, Benchmark International

Joint Industry Statement: 60 Minutes Report

Good Morning,

Please see the joint industry statement related to a 60 Minutes story about Lumber Liquidators and specifically concerning the utilized test methodology to measure formaldehyde. As the second accredited laboratory engaged by 60 Minutes for small chamber analysis of deconstructed flooring samples the attached statement is reflective of our opinion of the ARB SOP.

Without preference to any party involved in the 60 Minutes report and from a purely technical aspect, there exist nearly limitless production and processing variables that will impact the original emission profile of a regulated composite wood product. In current conversations taking place throughout the market there exists an assignment of explicit compliance with the emission requirements of the Airborne Toxic Control Measure. In our opinion this is an improper way to view any test result utilizing the ASTM D6007 test method – either when measuring emissions from a ‘raw’ regulated panel and especially from a ‘deconstructed’ regulated panel. From the ASTM D6007-14 method alone:

13. Precision and Bias
  • 13.1 A study including seven laboratories and four test materials was conducted in accordance with Practice E691 and resulted in the following statements for precision and bias.
  • 13.1.1 Repeatability – Test results indicate a repeatability (within laboratory) precision standard deviation ranging from 0.01 to 0.02 for products emitting 0.06 to 0.24 ppm of formaldehyde.
  • 13.1.2 Reproducibility – Test results indicate a reproducibility (laboratory) precision standard deviation ranging from 0.02 to 0.05 for products emitting 0.06 to 0.24 ppm of formaldehyde, respectively.

We fully support the efforts of the California Air Resources Board to improve indoor air quality. Benchmark actively participates with the agency as changes are made to the CARB ATCM and we maintain an open door policy for members of the Air Resources Board to enter our laboratory at all times; the United States Environmental Protection Agency accepted the same offer and has spent time in our laboratory while promulgating the U.S. National Formaldehyde Regulation. Our concern for the quality of air in homes, offices, schools and commercial structures is now being extended into even more stringent regulatory schemes such as the California Department of Public Health Section 01350 which we cover through our VOC Green program. Indoor air quality is important and clean air benefits everyone.

The circumstances surrounding the current conversations and search for answers regarding the different test methods utilized by different entities has compelled us to provide this simple analysis – Precise, reproducible results from material tested using ASTM D6007 is difficult at best. The variability found in the 2013 CARB Interlaboratory Comparison (Benchmark ID: NN) demonstrates this.

We are not discounting the SOP as irrelevant, it can be used as a tool by technically competent and trained regulatory agencies to warrant further investigation into a product. We do not agree with the assignment of explicit ‘compliance’ or ‘non-compliance’ of a product when tested in this manner.

The opportunity to participate with a storied institution such as 60 Minutes was an honor for us. Each of us here can replay the voices of Safer, Cronkite, Rooney and many others which we heard so often growing up. Our decision to participate with this project came from a sense of responsibility that we needed to try our best to explain a highly complex environmental regulation and the test methods used – the ATCM has many nuances that are difficult to grasp. This statement too is born from a sense of responsibility – we are being bombarded with questions from every corner of the nation about this issue. Applying precise measurement techniques to an inhomogeneous product created in an imperfect manufacturing environment is impractical. The merits of the language of the ATCM can be argued by attorneys, politicians and regulators and is not a discussion we will enter. Opening a dialogue concerning the technical aspects of test methods used within the regulation is a discussion we have entered before and continue to participate in today.

Sincerely,

Travis R. Snapp
Managing Director, Benchmark International (BMI)
Chief Operating Officer, Benchmark Holdings (BMH)