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Canada Proposes Standards for Formaldehyde Emissions from Composite Wood Products

By Grimaldi Law Offices Summer Associate Cecilia Grimaldi

The Canadian government is proposing to establish standards for formaldehyde emissions from composite wood products in order to protect health as well as to align its policies more closely with the United States. The Formaldehyde Emissions from Composite Wood Products Regulations were published in the Canadian Gazette, Part I, and the deadline for public comments is September 12, 2019.

Low exposure to formaldehyde is not a threat, but elevated levels can cause health issues such as eye, nose and throat irritation, respiratory problems, and allergic reactions, especially in children. In Canada, there are voluntary standards for formaldehyde content and emissions for composite wood products, but no government-enforced limits. Government testing has shown that some imported products have exceeded these voluntary standards. The proposed regulations would be enforced under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA) and would apply to the import, sale and offer for sale of products for indoor use in Canada. The regulations seek to impose the following maximum emission levels:

-0.05 parts per million (ppm) for hardwood plywood

-0.09 ppm for particleboard

-0.11 ppm for medium-density fiberboard

-0.13 ppm for thin medium-density fiberboard

-0.05 ppm for laminated products

Aside from health concerns, the proposed standards seek to unify Canadian and US regulatory requirements. California first promulgated its formaldehyde emissions standard in 2007. In 2016, the US EPA also promulgated formaldehyde emission standards for composite wood products under the Toxic Substances Control Act. Those standards largely mirrored the existing California regulations and applied to most composite wood products sold and imported into the US. Connecting the dots, then, Canada essentially is seeking to adopt a formaldehyde standard equivalent to that of California, once again demonstrating how California’s role in environmental protection can have global effects.

In 2017, stakeholders raised concerns that (1) US regulations could lead to noncompliant imports entering Canada and (2) a failure to align with US requirements could force Canadian manufacturers to either create two separate product lines or create one that complies with both countries, both of which would be very costly. Thus, the Canadian proposal hopes to create a level playing field for Canadian and US businesses by incorporating standardized regulations that will reduce industry burden and the costs associated with meeting multiple regulatory health objectives.

Grimaldi Law Offices has been advising clients for over 20 years on chemical and product regulation. For knowledgeable advice and in-depth analysis on your chemical regulatory compliance obligations, contact Grimaldi Law Offices at (415) 463-5186 or email us at [email protected].


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Ms. Grimaldi maintains a diverse environmental law practice focusing on chemical and product regulation and litigation defense. Her practice areas include Proposition 65, California's Safer Consumer Products Regulations, California's Rigid Plastic Packaging Container Act and the federal Toxic Substances Control Act. Ms. Grimaldi graduated from the University of California Hastings College of the Law magna cum laude and holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Bacteriology from University of California, Davis. Prior to attending law school, she worked as a research assistant in laboratories at the University of California, San Francisco Cancer Research Institute and at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine.