EPA Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Products

EPA Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Products

On February 7, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) final rule went into effect. The final rule revises the formaldehyde standards for composite wood products regulations to incorporate by reference multiple voluntary consensus standards.

Here is what you should know about this requirement and the impact it may have on the wood products that are offered under contracts.


Under the authority of Formaldehyde Standards for Wood Composite Wood Products Act and the Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) Title VI, EPA establishes formaldehyde emissions standards for composite wood products and a process for labeling products that meet these standards. Formaldehyde is a colorless and odorless gas used as a bonding agent in a wide range of wood products. Laboratory studies have revealed that prolonged exposure to formaldehyde emissions, especially in small and closed spaces, can cause a variety of harmful health effects, including respiratory complications and cancer.

Scope of Requirement

Compliance with EPA’s formaldehyde standards voluntary and cover a host of wood composite products including furniture, flooring or ceiling tiles, stairs, cabinets, bookcases, and building materials such as plywood panels. Also, the formaldehyde rule establishes a third-party certification program for hardwood plywood, medium-density fiberboard, and particleboard and includes procedures for the accreditation of third-party certifiers and general requirements for accreditation bodies and third-party certifiers.

Affected Parties

Entities that manufacture (including import), sell, supply, offer for sale, test, or work with certification firms that certify hardwood plywood, medium-density fiberboard, particleboard, or products containing these composite wood materials in the United States may be affected.

Product Exemptions

  • Hardboard
  • Structural composite lumber
  • Structural panels
  • Oriented strand board
  • Military-specified plywood
  • Prefabricated wood I-joists
  • Glued laminated lumber
  • Wood packaging
  • (pallets, crates, spools, dunnage)
  • Fingered-jointed lumber
  • Garage doors**
  • Composite wood products used in a new vehicle other than recreational vehicles (rail cars, boats, and aircraft)
  • Refurbished or antique furniture
  • Windows*
  • Finished goods previously sold or supplied to an end user who purchased or acquired the finished good in good faith for the purposes other than resale
  • Structural wood products

* Windows that contain composite wood products if the windows contain less than 5% composite wood product by volume
** Garage doors that contain composite wood products if the doors are made from composite wood products manufactured with no-added formaldehyde or ultra-low emitting formaldehyde resins or doors contain less than 3% composite wood product by volume

The voluntary product testing, certification, and labeling process is being managed by EPA-recognized product and laboratory accreditation bodies and EPA-recognized third party certifiers. EPA has incorporated the work already being accomplished by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and its party certifier process to avoid requiring suppliers to go through a duplicative emission standards process.

EPA currently does not have a list of third party certifiers. However, EPA has adopted the CARB third party certification program into EPA's framework for product testing, with minor tweaks. The CARB list of third party certifiers can be used to assist early efforts to identify suppliers that will be in compliance with the new emissions and product labeling requirements.

Refer to EPA's guidance materials for more detailed information, including the final rule, training, and related Q&As.

Last Reviewed: 2019-07-18