COVID-19 Guidance / Updates from EPA

With the outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) now impacting a number of countries worldwide, the international response has posed increasing challenges to effectively manage the global supply chain. Among other things, several countries have enacted, or are considering to enact, various international and regional travel bans and restrictions which have the effect of further constraining global trade. Such restrictions have already been implemented in a number of Southeast Asian countries, and the U.S. has implemented travel restrictions for specific foreign nationals.
In light of the challenges posed by this situation, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has updated its Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) to add guidance for Third-Party Certifiers (TPCs) regarding the requirements for conducting routine surveillance audits at production facilities certified pursuant to TSCA Title VI:

13. In the event of unsafe conditions in the geographic areas that would prevent a third-party certifier (TPC) from traveling in-person to that area, how can a TPC work with one of its TSCA Title VI-certified composite wood product manufacturing panel producers to conduct quarterly inspections (including sampling collections of composite wood products) to ensure TSCA Title VI compliance until the unsafe conditions are no longer present?

In the event of unsafe conditions (e.g., natural disasters, outbreaks, political unrest, epidemics, and pandemics) in the area of a composite wood product manufacturing panel producer, in order to conduct the required quarterly inspections and sample collections, the TPC could conduct a remote quarterly inspection via teleconference to satisfy the requirements of 40 CFR 770.7(c)(4)(i)(F), and work with the panel producer quality control manager at that time to select, package, sign, and ship the TPC panels/samples for the quarterly test according to 40 CFR 770.20(c). TPCs and panel producers should also remain in close communication with each to ensure any changes or developments that might affect the panel producer or product type certification are managed according to the TSCA Title VI regulations. The panel producer and TPC should also document each unsafe conditions occurrence for auditing purposes, and the TPC should notify EPA through its TSCA Title VI accrediting body/third-party certifier general mailbox ( when this remote method of quarterly inspection is being used. The standard practice for a TPC providing certification services for composite wood panel producers remains that a TPC conducts in-person quarterly inspections and sample collection, packaging, signature, and shipping for quality control testing.

The above FAQ can be found at:

EPA’s guidance provides an interim solution to meet the challenges posed by the international response to the COVID-19 outbreak and further aligns the agency’s guidance to that of the California Air Resources Board (CARB) on these types of matters. However, the application of the guidance provided by this FAQ is to be used only in extraordinary circumstances, and should not be viewed as a means to bypass normal quarterly audit and testing requirements. Benchmark continues to manage its global staff to meet client needs and regulatory requirements, and we will only utilize the above mechanism as a last resort. We remain in close contact with EPA, our clients, and other regulatory agencies as needed, and we will communicate further information as needed.
Please contact us if you have any questions.

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.

EPA Releases US National Formaldehyde Proposals

CARB Large Chamber TestingThe EPA recently released a new regulation to protect the public from exposure to formaldehyde. This new regulation includes additional products not covered by CARB and will impact multiple businesses throughout the wood products industry at both the primary and secondary points of manufacture.

We’re Here to Help

At Benchmark International, we’re here to support the industry and help you make sense of new laws. As we study this latest regulation, we will keep you updated with what you need to do. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us at 1-541-484-9212 or email

Join Us for a Free Webinar

In the near future, Benchmark, in conjunction with Oregon State University’s Wood Science Engineering Department, will hold a free webinar to address the implications of the formaldehyde regulation. Watch for an announcement and invitation to follow.

Read a Summary of the Regulation

We’ve included a summary of the new regulation below, straight from the EPA website. To view the full regulation, click here. We’ve also included two in-depth prepublication versions of the proposed EPA rules:

Formaldehyde Emissions Standards for Composite Wood Products;Proposed Rule [RIN 2070-AJ92; FRL-9342-3]

Formaldehyde; Third-Party Certification Framework for the Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Products[RIN 2070-AJ44; FRL 9342-4]

Proposed Rules to Implement the Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Products Act (TSCA Title VI)

CARB Small Chamber TestingThe EPA proposed two rules aimed at protecting the public from the risks associated with exposure to formaldehyde. The first proposal would implement formaldehyde emission standards under TSCA Title VI, and would apply to hardwood plywood, medium-density fiberboard, particleboard, and finished goods containing these products that are sold, supplied, offered for sale, or manufactured (including imported) in the United States.

The second proposal would establish a framework for a third-party certification program to ensure that composite wood panel producers comply with the formaldehyde emission limits established under TSCA Title VI.

These rules will protect people against the risks posed by formaldehyde emitted from composite wood products. These rules will also put in place one national set of standards for companies that manufacture or import these products and ensure the same protections for all Americans.

This rule also includes implementing provisions for:

First Proposed Rule: Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Products Act Implementing Regulation

As required by the law, the first proposal sets limits on how much formaldehyde may be released from composite wood products, including hardwood plywood, medium-density fiberboard, particleboard and finished goods containing these products, that are sold, supplied, offered for sale, manufactured, or imported in the United States. It also includes protective yet common sense exemptions from some testing and recordkeeping requirements for products made with no-added formaldehyde resins. This proposal includes additional implementing provisions for:

  • Laminated products
  • Testing requirements
  • Product labeling
  • Chain of custody documentation, and other recordkeeping requirements
  • Enforcement
  • Product inventory sell-through provisions, including a product stockpiling prohibition

Second Proposed Rule: Third-Party Certification Framework

The law also requires the establishment of a third-party certification program to ensure that composite wood panel producers comply with the established emission limits. Under the proposed framework, third-party certifiers (TPCs) would be required to apply to EPA-recognized accreditation bodies who would verify the certifiers’ ability to ensure that panel producers comply with the formaldehyde emission standards. Under this rule, TPCs would audit composite wood panel producers and verify compliance with the formaldehyde emission standards.

  • TPCs would be responsible for activities such as:
  • Regularly auditing composite wood panel producers
  • Conducting and verifying formaldehyde emissions tests
  • Ensuring that panel producers’ quality assurance/quality control procedures and testing complies with the TSCA Title VI implementing regulations

Benchmark International holds the following accreditations, which are all proposed requirements of the EPA regulation:

ISO/IEC Guide 65 Accredited

ISO/IEC 17020 Inspection Agency Accredited

ISO/IEC 17025 Testing Laboratory Accredited