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Crapo, Klobuchar Legislation To Protect Consumers From Formaldehyde Passes Senate

Bill creates national standards to level the playing field between domestic products and foreign imports

Washington, DC - U.S. Senators Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) announced today that their legislation, the Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Act, has passed the full Senate. The bipartisan bill will establish national health standards for formaldehyde in composite wood products, protecting consumers from potentially hazardous levels of the chemical. The new standards would apply to both domestic products and foreign imports.

"Not only does this legislation protect consumers; it also ensures that foreign wood products adhere to the same safety standards we employ here in the U.S.," Crapo said. "I appreciate the due diligence already shown by our domestic industry in this regard, and the vision on this issue expressed by members of the Senate."

"I've always believed that the first responsibility of government is to protect its citizens," Klobuchar said. "High levels of formaldehyde are a health threat. This bill will establish national standards that, when fully phased-in, will be the strongest in the world. These standards will both protect public health and ensure an even playing field between domestic wood products and foreign imports. This is a major step forward, and I look forward to seeing this bill become law."

Formaldehyde is a chemical that is used in many products as an adhesive, bonding agent or solvent. Most composite wood (made from wood pieces, particles or fibers bonded together with resin) contains some formaldehyde. Composite wood is used in common household products such as furniture, cabinets, shelving, countertops, flooring and molding.

In recent years, there have been concerns about the potential health hazards posed by high concentrations of formaldehyde in composite wood products.

The domestic wood products industry has already adopted voluntary standards to limit formaldehyde, but domestic products face competition from cheaper imported wood products that may contain high concentrations of formaldehyde. These imports have increased dramatically in the past decade, with China as the principal source.

The Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Act would establish national emission standards under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) for formaldehyde in new composite wood products (secondhand products and antiques are exempted).

Under the proposed federal legislation, by January 1, 2013, these products sold in the U.S. would have to meet a formaldehyde emission standards of about 0.09 parts per million. Collectively, these would be the toughest standards in the world.

In addition to establishing the national standards, this legislation would:

• Require third-party testing and certification to ensure that products with formaldehyde comply with the national standards; and

• Direct the EPA to work with Customs and Border Protection and other relevant federal agencies to enforce the standards for imported wood products.

This legislation has broad support from the wood products industry as well as environmental, health and labor organizations.

North American manufacturers of composite wood products have put in place rigorous programs to meet the California rule, and nearly 100% of U.S. production is already California complaint. The Composite Panel Association supports the legislation.

"This is a significant accomplishment, but enforcement is still only possible in California and not the other forty-nine states," said Tom Julia, President of the Composite Panel Association. "Without a national standard it will be difficult to monitor the compliance of products sold into those states as well as those imported from around the world. CPA is pleased that Senators Klobuchar and Crapo have taken the lead to advance product stewardship, promote green jobs, and ensure a level playing field for domestic manufacturers."

Senate cosponsors of the bipartisan bill included Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Evan Bayh (D-IN), Mark Begich (D-AK), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Sam Brownback (R-KS), Thad Cochran (R-MS), Bob Corker (R-TN), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Judd Gregg (R-NH), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Joseph Lieberman (ID-CT), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), James Risch (R-ID), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Jon Tester (D-MT) and David Vitter (R-LA).

A bipartisan companion bill has been introduced in the House of Representatives by Congresswoman Doris Matsui (D-CA) and Congressman Vernon J. Elhers (R-MI).