Executive Summary

Effective January 1, 2009, new California regulations modify labeling requirements for manufacturers, fabricators, importers, distributors and retailers of wood products. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) approved an Airborne Toxic Control Measure (“ATCM”) to reduce formaldehyde emissions from composite wood products. The ATCM applies to a variety of articles, including those manufactured from hardwood plywood, medium density fiberboard and particleboard. Anyone selling, offering for sale or supplying composite wood products and finished goods that contain composite wood products, which are destined for the California market, must comply with the ATCM, including third party certifiers, as defined in Title 17, California Code of Regulations, Section 93120.1.  

The New Regulations

CARB scheduled two separate phases for modifying labeling requirements. Phase 1, for most materials, began on January 1, 2009, while the stricter guidelines under Phase 2 are scheduled to be implemented in 2010 and beyond. Phase 1 requires that composite wood materials shipped into California comply with new formaldehyde emissions standards as stated in Section 93120.2. Parties violating the new regulations are subject to penalties, imposed on the length of violation calculated on a per diem basis.  

The new regulations apply to wood products and finished goods. “Finished goods” are broadly defined as any good or product, other than a panel, containing hardwood plywood, particleboard, or medium density fiberboard. Component parts, while used in the assembly of finished goods, however, are not considered “finished goods.” Antiques and second- hand furniture also fall outside of this defined group. The regulations do, however, apply to any pallets or crates used in the shipping of finished goods.  

Manufacturers, fabricators, distributors, importers, retailers and third party certifiers all fall under the purview of the new regulations. Specific labeling requirements are mandatory and retention of quality assurance test data may be required.  

CARB acknowledged the wood products industry’s need to maintain trade secrets and, as such, included provisions allowing for companies to conceal the name of the wood manufacturer.

Sell-Through Provisions

Nonconforming products may be sold, supplied or offered for sale beyond the regulation implementation date, only through a number of “safe harbor,” sell-through provisions. The sell-through provisions, however, are time sensitive and apply only to wood products manufactured within specific time frames prior to the new regulation’s effective date. The various date provisions depend on the particular type of product and manufacturer. Finally, the new regulations include certain exemptions allowing for the sale of nonconforming products, even after the expiration of the sell-through provisions.