US adopts new formaldehyde rules for composite wood products

09 July 2010 22:47  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS news)--A new US law restricting formaldehyde in domestic and imported composite wood products will protect public health, Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn) said on Friday.

Klobuchar was a sponsor in the US Senate of the Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Products Act signed into law this week by President Barack Obama.

The act is designed to protect consumers from the harmful effects of formaldehyde while ensuring a level playing field between domestic and foreign producers.

“High levels of formaldehyde are a health threat.  This law establishes national standards that will both protect public health and ensure an even playing field between domestic wood products and foreign imports,” Klobuchar said.

The legislation calls for particleboard, hardwood plywood, medium-density fibreboard (MDF) and other products made or sold in the US to meet the formaldehyde emission ceilings in California’s emission standard by June 2013.

The formaldehyde emission standard on the books in California was drafted by the California Air Resources Board (CARB).

One way to control formaldehyde emissions is by adding melamine to urea formaldehyde (UF) resins, which are used to make the wood products.

The addition of 2-3% melamine to UF resins effectively binds the formaldehyde, preventing its emission from composite wood products, industry sources said.

The use of resins, called UFm resins, could increase melamine demand by 30,000-40,000 tonnes/year, a source said.

UFm resins could also increase demand for upstream products such as urea, ammonia and, in the case of formaldehyde, feedstock methanol.

“North American manufacturers of composite wood products have put in place programmes to meet the CARB standards, and nearly 100% of US production is already CARB compliant,” said the Composite Panel Association (CPA).

In recent years, there have been concerns about the potential health hazards posed by formaldehyde in composite wood products. The domestic wood products industry has already adopted voluntary standards to limit formaldehyde, but domestic products have faced competition from cheaper imported wood products that still contain high concentrations of formaldehyde, the CPA said.

Melamine producers said that tightness of supply in the current market was largely attributable to the need for composite wood product makers to be CARB compliant.

Among those joining CPA in support of the legislation were the Hardwood Plywood & Veneer Association, the Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturers Association and the Sierra Club.

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 fibres bonded together with resin) contains some formaldehyde.

Composite wood is used in common household products such as furniture, cabinets, shelving, countertops, flooring and molding.

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By: Frank Zaworski
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