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Formaldehyde Safety Bill Signed Into Law

President signs Klobuchar-Crapo bill creating 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 been signed into law by the President. The law establishes national health standards for formaldehyde in composite wood products, protecting consumers from potentially hazardous levels of the chemical. The new standards will apply to both domestic products and foreign imports.

"The health threats posed by formaldehyde have been around us in products such as shelving, cabinets and particle board furniture," Crapo said. "Our responsible domestic wood products producers adopted these safety standards years ago, and it is now fitting that this new law will stop imports of these potentially dangerous products from foreign nations as well."

"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 law establishes national standards that 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."

The Klobuchar-Crapo bill passed the Senate on June 14, 2010, and passed the House of Representatives on June 23, 2010. A companion bill was introduced by Congresswoman Doris Matsui (D-CA) and Congressman Vernon J. Elhers (R-MI).

Formaldehyde is a chemical that is used in many products as an adhesive, bonding agent, or solvent. In recent years, there have been concerns about the potential health hazards posed by high concentrations of formaldehyde in composite wood that is used in common household products such as furniture, cabinets, shelving, countertops, flooring, and molding.

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 establishes national emission standards under the Toxic Substances Control Act for formaldehyde in new composite wood products, secondhand products and antiques being exempted.

By January 1, 2013, the products sold in the United States will 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 law:

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

• Directs the Environmental Protection Agency 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.

"This legislation helps the forest products industry and consumers in our country," said Wayne Brandt, Executive Vice President of the Minnesota Forest Industries.

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

"This is a significant accomplishment, but enforcement is still only possible in California and not the other 49 states," said Tom Julia, President of the CPA. "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."