Third-party certification has its problems for offshore companies

Originally published by FurnitureToday 

Written By: Powell Slaughter | Senior Editor

COLFAX, N.C. — Third-party certification of offshore mills producing composite wood products for compliance with EPA/CARB formaldehyde rules has problems.

That’s the word from Travis Snapp, founder and president of global certification and inspection agency as well as testing lab operator Benchmark International, for attendees at the recent AHFA Formaldehyde Workshop here.

There’s a distinction between testing laboratories, which analyze products against published standards that give mostly straightforward instructions on how to carry out the analysis, vs. TPCs. “Being a TPC agency is a different animal from a testing lab,” Snapp said. “You need the knowledge of manufacturing to go in and see if they’re doing the right things for certification.”

For its part, Benchmark invested to place its own offices, labs and employees overseas. Right now it has 42 CARB TPCs and testing labs in 17 countries certifying 1,212 mills.

TPC competence

Snapp said a competent EPA/CARB TPC needs expertise in five areas: product certification, laboratory procedure and analysis, inspection of specific manufacturing processes, data management and, for international TPCs, foreign operations.

In terms of product certification, a TPC should operate under a well-documented and well-implemented quality management system with a high level of technical and ethical standards; ensure competent testing, inspection and surveillance to support all certified products; and maintain full compliance with ISO/IEC Standard 17065 and, when applicable, sector-specific requirements to meet market and regulatory needs.

Snapp believes a good TPC should be an expert in laboratory procedures and analysis. “If you don’t have capability in the lab, how can you go into a plant and make sure they’re doing it right? A simple question to ask is, ‘Does a TPC have a lab?’” he said.

Follow that with: What methods are listed in their scope, and are you free to visit the TPC’s facility? The latter is particularly important for importers. Onsite inspection can reveal problems: If there’s dust on the desiccator, for example, “it’s a good sign they’re not using the desiccator, Also, ask how they’ve performed in proficiency testing,” Snapp said, adding that’s important because TPCs can subcontract testing.

“I have a huge problem with subcontracting out for inspecting and testing … subcontracting as a backup is one thing, but if it’s your primary method there’s a problem,” Snapp said. “You have to demonstrate proficiency and knowledge in what you’re doing. Certification is not easy if you’re doing it right.”

In addition to knowledge of manufacturing processes, Snapp emphasized the importance of a TPC’s data management capability. Reporting requirements for EPA’s central data exchange includes a “mountain of information” such as mill physical, product and quality control information; correlation data and compliance testing for each batch or lot; failure notifications and annual reporting.

“And it all has to be in English,” Snapp added. “How is your (offshore) TPC going to handle the language barrier?”

What does it all mean?

Snapp closed his presentation with photos of glue spreaders and mixing stations from what he said are current CARB-certified mills depicting abysmal production conditions.

“I’ve walked through some of these plants, and it burned the hairs in my nose – I didn’t need to bring my trimmers on the trip,” he quipped.

The bottom line for importers is that the new formaldehyde rule encompasses different facets of manufacturing, conversion, shipment and sales.

“The (offshore certification) program is still weak, and you must get involved with your TPCs to make sure the job is done right,” Snapp said.

Lacey Act Press Release Department of Justice

Essential Oils Company Sentenced for Lacey Act and Endangered Species Act Violations to Pay $760,000 in Fines, Forfeiture, and Community Service, and to Implement a Comprehensive Compliance Plan

Department of Justice

Office of Public Affairs

The Justice Department announced today that YOUNG LIVING ESSENTIAL OILS, L.C., (the Company), headquartered in Lehi, Utah, pleaded guilty in federal court to federal misdemeanor charges regarding its illegal trafficking of rosewood oil and spikenard oil in violation of the Lacey Act and the Endangered Species Act. The Company voluntarily disclosed its rosewood oil violations and has been cooperating with government investigators. Pursuant to the terms of the plea agreement, the Company was sentenced to a fine of $500,000, $135,000 in restitution, a community service payment of $125,000 for the conservation of protected species of plants used in essential oils, and a term of five years’ probation with special conditions. The conditions include the implementation of a corporate compliance plan, audits, and the publication of statements regarding its convictions.

“The importation of illegally harvested wood and timber products harms law-abiding American companies and workers and threatens forest resources around the world,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey H. Wood of the Environment and Natural Resources Division. “Our Division was proud to work alongside the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the District of Utah, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Department of Homeland Security to bring this case to a positive conclusion.”

“While the natural resource violations by certain employees of Young Living were intentional and substantial, the Company’s decision to conduct an internal investigation, voluntarily disclose the initial violations to government enforcement authorities, and cooperate throughout the ensuing investigation is to be commended,” said U.S. Attorney John W. Huber for the District of Utah. “This sentence reflects both the seriousness of the offenses and the acceptance of responsibility and cooperation by the Company.”

According to the plea agreement, from June 2010 to October 2014, several company employees and contractors harvested, transported, and distilled rosewood (Aniba roseaodora or Brazilian rosewood) in Peru and imported some of the resulting oil into the United States, through Ecuador. Peruvian law prohibits the unauthorized harvest and transport of timber, including rosewood. Neither the Company nor its suppliers, employees, or agents had any valid authorization from the Peruvian government. Peru also prohibits the export of species protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), without the required permits. The Company did not obtain any CITES export permits from Peru. Between 2010 and 2014, a few Company employees harvested, transported, and possessed a total of approximately 86 tons of rosewood, all of which was harvested in violation of Peruvian law. The rosewood was intended for distillation and export to the United States and some had already been illegally brought over. The Company lacked an internal compliance program or formal procedures, training, or means to review and resolve problems and identify and stop potential violations. As a result, the Company hired outside counsel to conduct an internal investigation into the violations due to the illegal harvesting and shipping of plants that occurred in Peru and Ecuador. On July 20, 2015, once the internal investigation was complete, the Company made an initial written voluntary disclosure to the Government of various facts indicating their potentially illegal violations.

The investigation revealed that, in addition to the conduct disclosed by the Company, in December 2015, the Company exported spikenard oil harvested in Napal to the United Kingdom, without a CITES permit. The spikenard oil was previously imported from a company in the United Kingdom that had obtained a CITES export permit. The Company found the product to be unsatisfactory and shipped it back to the United Kingdom. On March 23, 2016, a Company employee filed an application for a CITES permit for this shipment after the fact, and without providing the required copy of the permit authorizing its original export from the United Kingdom.

The investigation also revealed that between November 2014 and January 2016, the Company purchased over 1,100 kilograms of rosewood oil from a supplier/importer in the United States without conducting sufficient due diligence to verify lawful sourcing of that oil.

The Government calculates the fair market retail value of the plant products involved in the violations and relevant conduct, including but not limited to product equaling approximately 1,899.75 liters of rosewood oil, to be more than $3.5 million but not more than $9 million.

The investigation was conducted by the Law Enforcement Offices of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of the Inspector General, with assistance of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Department of Homeland Security, Investigations. This case is being prosecuted by the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division’s Environmental Crimes Section and the District of Utah’s U.S Attorney’s Office.

Press Release Number:

Trees, More Than the Forest They Make (Part 1)

Trees are amazing plants. They have evolved or many years to occupy certain environments, take in water from the ground, energy from the sun, and carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and make both oxygen and wood. Trees do this while also providing habitat for wildlife, places for us to recreate, and a filter for our watersheds.


Trees can be classified into one of two classes, hardwoods or softwoods. The two classes are scientifically know and angiosperms and gymnosperms. Hardwoods are angiosperms and have a covering over the seed (think acorns and apples). Softwoods on the other hand, are classified as angiosperms and the seed is not fully enclosed in a covering (think pine and cedar cones).


The two classes do not have anything to do with the hardness of the wood found inside of the tree. The best example of this is balsa wood, which comes from a balsa tree (Ochroma pyramidale). Balsa trees are classified as gymnosperms or hardwoods, yet the wood is both light and low in stiffness and strength.


(To be continued)


Sustainability is an important aspect of renewable natural resources, by its very nature it is a requirement. For our natural resources to be renewable, they must be managed in a sustainable way. Are sustainability and utilization mutually exclusive? The answer is a resounding no!

Many of our natural resources require utilization as part of the active management programs in place. Harvesting trees to be utilized for products in many cases are both necessary and important. Active forest management is critical in areas where disturbance is part of the natural ecosystem. In fact, harvesting can mimic many of these disturbances allowing for healthier ecosystems.

This may seem counter-intuitive, but many of the forests in North America depend on disturbances like fire, hurricanes, and tornadoes to stay healthy. These disturbances allow changes to take place in the forest, these changes are referred to as Forest Succession or Ecological Succession. Does that mean an entire forest needs disturbance? No, it means to have a healthy mosaic of forests, disturbance must occur to provide diversity.

Weather Events

Hurricanes and tornadoes create major disturbances in the forest. The break the tops out of trees, push trees over, and even distribute their seeds great distances. Both can leave bare soil exposed to sunlight allowing for other vegetation to grow, improving food sources for different animals.

By Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response Team, NASA/GSFC –


Fires are beneficial too, because they allow trees with serotinous cones to spread their seeds, onto exposed soil, guaranteeing a new generation of trees to replace ones that are older and towards the end of their life spans. In fact, there are species that are dependent on fire for success. Fire intensity depends on several factors including frequency, fuel loads, weather, and time since the last fire.


Harvesting of trees can accomplish the same benefits natural benefits of major weather events, by exposing areas to sunlight allowing for new vegetative growth that benefit wildlife; the difference being, when harvesting is performed, the harvested trees can be turned into useful products, many of which are long lived, storing carbon from the atmosphere.

Similarly, with proper harvesting and controlled burns in the forest, fuel loads can be reduced so that when weather events or negligence starts a fire in the forest, the risk of catastrophic fires and damage to property can be reduced. By actively managing our forests, we can reduce fire risks, produce sustainable products, and provide viable and healthy ecosystems for the future.

(hurciane image courtsey of, Public Domain,

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.