Formaldehyde emissions limits could be tightened

By CMTA Staff

Capitol Update, April 20, 2007 Share this on FacebookTweet thisEmail this to a friend

Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) introduced SB 509 which would prohibit the manufacturing or selling of composite wood products in California unless they comply with increasingly more stringent specified air emission limits effective January 1, 2009 and January 1, 2011.  The bill leaves unspecified the emission limits to be met no later than January 1, 2013.

Formaldehyde is a known human carcinogen. However, this bill ignores the progress that has been made by the composite wood industry over the past 20 years. The industry has reduced by 80 percent the emissions of formaldehyde from their products, so that emissions are now below the 0.3 ppm level which the human body itself emits.  Human blood contains 2ppm formaldehyde and scientists have proven that humans can naturally detoxify up to 2.0 parts per million of formaldehyde with no adverse effects.  This bill proposes an emission limit not to exceed 0.8ppm by 2009 and .05ppm by 2011. 

Oregon State University holds the patent on the only known alternative to formaldehyde-use in gluing together particle board, plywood etc. However, this patent has been assigned exclusively to one company, Columbia, thus potentially giving this company a monopoly if the bill were to pass. However, the alternative does not work for all composite wood applications, including furniture. 

The California Air Resources Board has been studying this issue for six years and will issue a rule on April 26th.  Our belief is that they will set the bar at 0.10 ppm.  This ultra conservative figure is significantly lower than industry would like, but not as low as this bill requires. 

Formaldehyde is used in numerous other applications besides composite wood, cabinetry and furniture.  It is also used extensively in auto manufacturing, ink and textiles as well as incorporated in resin in other industries.  Setting limits this low will also jeopardize these industries.

CMTA opposes SB 509 and believes that setting emissions standards is a job better left to scientists than politicians.  This bill is next set to be heard in Senate Appropriations in early May.  If you would like more information on SB 509, please contact Mike Rogge mrogge@cmta.net  at 916-601-9805.

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