Terminology Time – TSCA

Everyone knows the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is rolling out a national formaldehyde rule this year. There has been much discussion about how it might change under the current Administration, and those details are not yet known. However, it should be clear that this rule was created because an Act of Congress told the EPA to issue the rule. The Act cannot be eliminated by Executive Order. It is possible for parts to be delayed and the EPA can still look to change sections of it or put out more guidance, but unless Congress wants to eliminate it entirely, we will be facing it in one form or another in the near future.

So what is it?  Just like CARB is a program that goes far beyond formaldehyde emissions from composite wood products, TSCA covers a world of regulations. TSCA stands for the Toxic Substances Control Act and is a program supervised by the U.S. EPA. When spoken, it is often pronounced “TOSKA.” The original Act was created in 1976 to regulate commercial chemical use, and the subsequent amendments to the original Act are called “Titles.”

The current Titles of TSCA include:

  • Title I – Control of Toxic Substances (the original Act)
  • Title II – Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response
  • Title III – Indoor Radon Abatement
  • Title IV – Lead Exposure Reduction
  • Title V – Healthy High-Performance Schools
  • Title VI – Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Products

In 2010, Congress passed the “Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Products Act.” The legislation officially added “Title VI” to TSCA, so you will often see this particular program referred to as TSCA VI or TSCA Title VI. The emission standards were set at the same level as CARB’s, but the paperwork and administrative burdens differ somewhat. (As a simple example, CARB requires everyone to keep records for two years, but TSCA wants you to hold on to things for three. There are plenty of other differences which we’ll get into at another time.)

It is important to know that TSCA Title VI does not pre-empt CARB, so in the future, both the original boards (plywood, MDF, etc.) and value added products like flooring and cabinets would need to carry both labels. CARB is also expecting to roll out a third phase someday that will align it more closely to the TSCA regs—for example, they may also demand three years of record storage as well.

Compliance with the standard is scheduled to start Dec. 12, 2017. The exact way this is going to begin is still being discussed. However, it is important to know that pre-Dec. 12 production will still be legal to sell. If your panel or floor is stored here in the U.S. and was made prior to Dec. 12, 2017, you can sell until your stock is cleared.

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