By C. Richard Titus, Executive Vice President
The Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association (KCMA) challenged several aspects of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed rule, Formaldehyde Emissions Standards for Composite Wood Products, in comments filed on October 9, 2013.
KCMA supported the creation of a federal formaldehyde emission standards program in 2010 with the expectation that EPA would promulgate standards that mirrored the California Air Resources Board (CARB) regulation 93120, Airborne Toxic Control Measure (ATCM) to Reduce Formaldehyde Emission from Composite Wood Products (2008). Most significant for the cabinet industry and other fabricators, KCMA expected EPA to exclude “laminated products,” (i.e., veneered HWPW produced by fabricators and their suppliers for use in made-to-order finished products) from the broad definition of hardwood plywood (HWPW).
The single most costly and burdensome aspect of EPA’s proposed rule is the Agency’s decision to disregard CARB, KCMA and others on the treatment of “laminated products.” Instead of following the ATCM as intended by Congress, EPA dramatically expanded the requirements. This represents the single most significant variation from the approach taken by the current California rule.
Congress gave EPA authority to adopt the approach of the California ATCM. Instead, EPA has proposed to, in effect, ban adhesives containing any urea formaldehyde (UF). Questionable science was used to support the approach. As the American Chemistry Council stated, “EPA discounts the scientific evidence of a threshold for health effects, disagrees with findings from international authoritative bodies and presents valuations that are not based on biological evidence.” The proposed EPA regulation departs drastically from the performance-based approach adopted by CARB, which was developed after much deliberation, scientific review, and careful study over a period of years.
KCMA is concerned about the impact this rule would have on thousands of small businesses, especially cabinetmakers and their component suppliers. Cabinet makers, who veneer on a kitchen-by-kitchen basis, would be subject to the same regulation as six plywood manufacturers who account for 80% of the market and who produce hundreds of millions or billions of square feet of commodity products each year. CARB recognized the distinction between panel producers and fabricators. Under CARB rules, fabricators are required to use certified composite wood, maintain usage records and label their products as compliant, but unlike EPA’s proposal, there are no costly additional testing, certification, quality control requirements and paperwork burdens, many of which could be duplicative. KCMA supported the comments of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy relative to the negative impacts of the proposed regulation on small businesses.
KCMA also commented that:
• The true costs of this rule would far exceed the benefits. EPA grossly overstates the unquantified “benefits” due to avoided health effects. For example, the incidence of nasopharyngeal cancer (NPC) from composite wood exposure as estimated by EPA vastly exceeded actual National Cancer Institute (NCI) data on incidence of these cancers from all causes in the U.S. population.
• EPA justifies its disparate treatment of ultra low-emitting formaldehyde resin (ULEF) by relying on an ill-conducted research study of ULEF products’ emissions under enhanced heat and humidity. It used failing results of ULEF-UF HWPW panels when unrealistic high temperature and humidity conditions were set, which created higher than usual formaldehyde emissions to support punitive requirements that amount to a ban.
• The regulation provides no de minimis exemptions (cabinet components, repair, and the like) as required by the statute.
KCMA advocates that (1) the veneering done by downstream fabricators should not be treated the same as HWPW production; (2) that prescriptive, specification-based provisions should be replaced with performance-based formaldehyde emissions requirements for composite wood panel products without bias towards any resin or manufacturing technology employed to meet those requirements; (3) raised panels are excluded from the definition of HWPW, and (4) products and components containing de minimis amounts of composite wood products should be exempted. KCMA joined the Federal Wood Industry Coalition (FWIC) in its comments on the regulation and submitted research affirming that the kitchen and bathroom are the best ventilated rooms in the home, which further reduces risk to consumers from formaldehyde emissions from compliant composite wood materials.
KCMA President Paul Sova (Showplace Wood Products) observed that,
Any fabricator who does any veneering should have great concern with the proposed composite wood formaldehyde regulations, as well as anyone making veneered HWPW components supplied to cabinet, furniture and other wood products companies. This important and specialized part of our supply chain would be regulated the same as large plywood panel manufacturers which is both overly severe and unnecessary. Even those using non-formaldehyde adhesives would have to test and meet other administrative requirements in order to comply. In today’s economy, many would be unable to support this costly burden to essentially prove the negative. This is not how a rational regulatory system works.
KCMA’s comments on the proposed rule are available at http://www.kcma.org/members/Legislative_Information