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EPA's Proposed Rule for Formaldehyde Emissions Is Arbitrary and Contrary to the Intent of the Law


Contact: Liz Snyder Bowman (202) 249-6509  
Email: Liz_Bowman@americanchemistry.com

ACC Formaldehyde Panel Files Comments on EPA’s Proposed Formaldehyde
Emissions Standards for Composite Wood Products

WASHINGTON (October 11, 2013) – EPA’s proposed rule for formaldehyde emissions for composite wood products is arbitrary and contrary to the intent of the law, according to comments filed this week by the American Chemistry Council’s Formaldehyde Panel. The Panel states in its comments that it supports a national standard, but questions EPA’s overreach in the development of this proposed rule, which is a significant departure from the performance-based standard implemented under the California Air Resources Board (CARB) Airborne Toxic Control Measure (ATCM) to Reduce Formaldehyde Emissions from Composite Wood Products.

“We support a national regulation that adopts the current California standards,” said Jackson Morrill, director of ACC’s Formaldehyde Panel. “EPA’s proposed rule, however, is not based on the best available science, greatly overstates any tangible health benefits, and will send confusing messages in the marketplace. 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.”

Over the course of several decades, the formaldehyde industry has made tremendous strides in developing products to meet performance requirements set by customers and CARB to reduce formaldehyde emissions from composite wood products. These efforts have led to the development of resin technologies, including ultra-low emitting formaldehyde (ULEF) resins that are capable of reducing potential emissions to remarkably low levels. These resin systems meet or exceed technical performance requirements for a wide range of composite wood products, while also ensuring compliance with current CARB ATCM performance-based emissions standards.

“Congressional intent was to set an emissions control measure equivalent to compliance with the CARB ATCM standard,” said Morrill. “EPA has exceeded Congressional intent by proposing a regulation that is not technology-based and that differs significantly from the CARB ATCM.”

In its comments, ACC’s Formaldehyde Panel outlines how the Agency overreached in its proposed rule, which is not performance-based, relies on outdated risk values and depends on a flawed benefit analysis. Comments include:

  • The statute was intended to promote commerce, not disadvantage a particular chemistry, manufacturing process or business entity.
    • Congressional intent is clear: promote commerce and implement a technology-based standard that allows the marketplace to provide a range of solutions to meet emissions standards.
    • Manufacturers continue to rely on formaldehyde-based resin technologies as a proven solution to meet or exceed the CARB Phase II emissions standards. The proposed rule, however, unjustifiably disadvantages formaldehyde-containing resins, despite the effectiveness and capability of formaldehyde-based resins to meet strict emission standards.  

  • EPA’s benefits analysis is seriously flawed and rests on an analysis of health impacts that simply does not support EPA’s stated bias against formaldehyde-based technologies used in composite wood products. 
    • The incidences of nasopharyngeal cancer (NPC) as estimated using EPA’s methodology vastly exceed actual National Cancer Institute (NCI) data on incidence of these cancers from all causes in the U.S. population. NPC is a rare cancer that is associated with numerous risk factors, and to attribute a number higher than the sum total of what is reported by NCI to only one possible cause is not credible.

“EPA’s errors and omissions in this proposed rule prevent the public and Congress from gaining a clear understanding of the proposed rule’s true costs to society. EPA must make these corrections in the supporting benefits analysis and Economic Analysis before publishing the final rule,” said Morrill. “Experience under the CARB ATCM shows that a performance-based approach to setting emission standards is not only effective in ensuring compliance, but also can meet diverse market needs while encouraging constant innovation.  This is why ACC believes that EPA should improve the rule by removing technology biases and adhere to a fair and objective performance-based approach.”

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