June 01, 2017

Into the Woods: Does EPA’s Formaldehyde Rule for Wood Products Go Too Far?

Shani Harmon

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the health risk of formaldehyde emissions from indoor furniture and fixtures was brought to light when trailers distributed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency were found to contain higher-than-average levels of formaldehyde emissions. Formaldehyde is a chemical that is part of some resins, or glues, used in the manufacture of composite wood products, such as hardwood plywood, particleboard, and medium-density fiberboard. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA or Agency) recently issued a rule intended to limit formaldehyde emissions from wood products, including furniture, kitchen cabinets, flooring, picture frames, and wooden children’s toys sold in the United States. Although EPA’s rule will reduce the formaldehyde emissions from wood products, EPA’s rule has some flaws. Specifically, EPA’s rule sets up a costly and complicated third-party certification system, is overbroad with respect to some of the wood products that must reduce formaldehyde emissions, and includes a vague prohibition on stockpiling wood products manufactured before the rule’s compliance deadline.

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