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AHFA Focuses On California Formaldehyde Wood Products Compliance Issue

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The American Home Furnishings Alliance (AHFA) is formulating a compliance strategy to help manufacturers meet the strict requirements in California’s formaldehyde emissions regulation. On April 27 California air regulators approved sweeping restrictions on emissions of formaldehyde, a chemical found in the resins used to manufacture hardwood plywood, particleboard and medium density fiberboard. The regulation will have a dramatic impact on the global residential furniture market, as well as the cabinet, shelving, countertop and flooring markets. All wood has some naturally occurring formaldehyde. But more formaldehyde is added to composite wood in the form of resins used to bind wood particles together. The California Air Resources Board (CARB), a department within California’s Environmental Protection Agency, has described home furnishings containing formaldehyde as a “major source” of indoor air pollution – one that the agency contends causes eye, nose and throat irritation, headaches, allergies, aggravated asthma, decreased lung function, even cancer. During negotiations spanning three years, AHFA and other industry stakeholders opposed CARB’s proposed formaldehyde emission limits, contending that CARB’s research referenced unsubstantiated health consequences of formaldehyde exposure and ignored newer, more reliable scientific data. Furthermore, the emission limits adopted last month fail to take into account the absence of resin technology to replace that which is currently used in the manufacture of most composite wood products. To ensure compliance, CARB is requiring foreign and domestic composite wood manufacturers to certify their products by a “third party” lab approved by the Air Resources Board. Also, all products must be clearly labeled as meeting the emission requirements. Distributors, contractors, panel manufacturers and importers will be held responsible for assuring that their products comply. Initially, as part of its enforcement strategy, CARB proposed a finished product testing requirement. This would have forced furniture manufacturers to test and label all products before shipping to retail. AHFA aggressively opposed this part of the measure and succeeded in having it removed from the final regulation. However, even without the finished product testing requirement, the third-party certification process remains ambiguous. “It is unclear how overseas labs will receive CARB approval and how CARB will monitor their record-keeping,” says Bill Perdue, AHFA’s vice president of environmental management, health and safety. “AHFA is focusing its efforts on helping furniture manufacturers bridge this gap by identifying a protocol for ensuring their board suppliers are meeting the certification and labeling requirement,” says Perdue. The American Home Furnishings Alliance –located in High Point, N.C. and Washington, D.C. – is the largest association of home furnishings companies in the world and represents more than 250 leading furniture manufacturers and distributors, as well as 225 suppliers to the furniture industry worldwide.

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