Tardy formaldehyde rules pass through White House

The resins used when making composite wood products often contain formaldehyde – as well as some household cleaners and textiles – and its fumes can be toxic.

Until the proposed regulations are published in the Federal Register, the specifics will remain unclear, but Congress laid out relatively clear guidelines and goals for the rules.

Lawmakers directed EPA to consider writing regulations that contain provisions to track the products through the supply chain, rules that encourage manufacturers to use “ultra low-emitting formaldehyde resins” and remaining mindful of how the regulations could effect manufacturers whose products only contain a small amount of composite wood.

The second proposal sets the standards for the congressionally mandated “third-party certifier” to ensure outside parties comply with any new rules resulting from the legislation.

Under its statutory requirements, the EPA must set criteria for training and certifying the third-party investigators, including auditing, recordkeeping and enforcement.

Any costs of the new regulations won’t be unveiled until the proposed rules are published, but the EPA says it is conducting an analysis. It does note, preliminarily, that the standards are likely to have an “adverse economic impact” on small businesses. They will also have “international trade and investment effects, or otherwise be of international interest.”

The agency, however, makes an effort to also emphasize the health benefits that could result from issuing limits on formaldehyde emissions, which has been categorized as an irritant and a human carcinogen.

The rules are “likely to present an opportunity to address an existing disproportionate impact on vulnerable populations,” such as low-income individuals, children and pregnant women, according to the EPA’s website.

Even short-term exposure can irritate a person’s eyes, nose and throat – and “may be associated with changes in pulmonary function and increased risk of asthma in children,” the regulator writes.