December 11, 2009

Formaldehyde Consumer Protection Bill Clears Committee

Crapo, Klobuchar seek additional protection in wood products

Washington, DC - A key Senate Committee has approved legislation sponsored by Senator Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) to update consumer product protections under the Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Act. The bipartisan legislation was approved by the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works and protects consumers by establishing national health standards for formaldehyde in composite wood products, which would apply to both domestic products and foreign imports.

"This is needed legislation, which will supply manufacturers of composite wood products with a uniform standard for formaldehyde in wood products," Crapo said. "In addition to attempting to provide certainty for industry, this bill aims to achieve important public health benefits as well."

"I've always believed that the first responsibility of government is to protect its citizens," said Klobuchar. "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 vote brings us one step closer, and I am looking forward to this bill moving to the full Senate."

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 measure, by January 1, 2012, 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.

Ralph Scott, spokesman for the Alliance for Healthy Homes, said of the legislation, "By significantly reducing formaldehyde in composite wood products that are so widely used in building materials and furniture products, the Klobuchar and Crapo bill will make our homes much healthier. In addition to helping consumers and the environment, the lower formaldehyde standard will set clear expectations and level the playing field for manufacturers, thus helping them, too."

The Composite Panel Association issued the following statement from President Tom Julia in support of the legislation:

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. "This is a significant accomplishment, but enforcement is still only possible in California and not the other forty-nine states," said Julia. "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," he added.

The legislation now goes to the full Senate for further consideration.