There are several organizations and certifications on both state and federal levels that focus on formaldehyde compliance. Where other articles in this section focus on what formaldehyde is or how to dissipate odors, the below focuses on the organizations and various compliance laws surrounding formaldehyde.
CARB Phase 2, or the California Air Resources Board is applicable to-you guessed it-California. In order to be CARB phase 2 certified, formaldehyde levels must be low enough to be considered safe: 0.09ppm (parts per million) for particleboard and 0.11ppm for MDF. Additionally, records must be kept showing that engineered wood panels have been tested by a third party. This ensures that only compliant composite wood materials enter the supply chain.
TSCA Title VI, or Toxic Substances Control Act, is the federal government's formaldehyde emission standards as issued by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Because it was written with the assistance of CARB, there are many similarities between the two, however this is applicable to all states. The levels for particleboard and MDF panels are identical to CARB's, as are the mandates that testing and certification be done through a third party.
The similarities far outweigh the differences between these two organizations, and one is not always more stringent than the other. Recordkeeping, for example is longer for TSCA and labeling is more abundant for CARB. California always defers to whichever requirement is the most rigid, regardless of which policy it falls under. These requirements are applicable to any company who sells, supplies, manufactures, or imports composite wood products, as well as fabricators, distributers, retailers and Third Party Certifiers (TPCs). Products can be either CARB or TSCA certified, or they could be both. For Ameriwood products, we are compliant for both, and labels for TSCA and CARB can be found on our cartons.
Proposition 65 is officially known as the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986. It is not specific exclusively to formaldehyde, but is a list that includes approximately 900 chemicals. The presence of any of these requires a label in order to be sold within the state of California. While these are not required of the other 49, it is the path of least resistance to be included on all products, regardless of destination. The label reads, "WARNING: This product contains chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm,” and the premise is that this enables Californians to make informed decisions before purchase.
An item can be both TSCA and CARB certified and still require a Prop 65 label. The reason for this is that whereas TSCA and CARB focus on the amount of the chemical found with in a product, Proposition 65 deals with safe harbor, or exposure levels. For formaldehyde, the safe harbor level is set at 40µg/day. For those of us who are NOT chemists, a microgram is a unit of mass equal to one millionth of a gram. It doesn't take much, and each of the 900 or so chemicals on the Prop 65 list have safe harbor levels. Many cosmetics, medications, household items, foods and beverages, as well as businesses and services found in California sport a Prop 65 warning. To avoid every product and business with this warning would be an undertaking, but a complete list can be found at https://www.p65warnings.ca.gov/fact-sheets.