Talking TSCA with Your Customers

TSCA Title VI is here, and your role now is to help customers understand what it covers, and – in some ways, more importantly – what it doesn’t.

You are likely to hear this referenced in many different ways. You’ll have customers asking about “EPA Certified Flooring” or “Tok-Ka” or “Tas-Ka” or “Tox-Ka” flooring. Or maybe they’ll ask, “What is Title 6?” It might even be called “CARB VI,” I’ve seen that one too. Or maybe they’ll be looking for a CARB label and wonder why you don’t have one on your new flooring box. No matter how they approach the topic, your goal is to help them make an informed choice.

First, to review, what’s TSCA? Like “CARB” before it, TSCA is a shorthand reference that stands for something a lot bigger than what we use it for, the Toxic Substances Control Act, a law passed in 1976 to regulate commercial chemical use. The entire Act covers a lot of chemicals and a lot of issues, but in the wood industry, when people talk TSCA, they are talking about the 2010 amendment, “Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Products Act.” The amendment officially added “Title VI” to TSCA, so you will often see this particular program referred to as TSCA VI or TSCA Title VI. Title VI was based on CARB, and while there are some differences in the approach, those technical details aren’t really significant to the consumer – let’s talk about four concepts you do want to be able to discuss with the end-user.

Like CARB, TSCA regulates four products directly – hardwood plywood (in two forms, veneer only and a veneer with a composite core), regular medium density fiberboard (MDF) and the thin version of MDF, and finally a composite wood product we don’t use much in the flooring industry, particleboard. Notice that flooring is not in that group.

That’s your first note for a consumer: TSCA does not directly regulate flooring. TSCA does not certify flooring. There is no EPA-certified flooring.

Flooring, like furniture or cabinetry or other products, should be manufactured as TSCA-compliant if it contains one of the four regulated products. Engineered flooring produced with plywood or MDF (or particleboard for that matter) and laminate flooring produced with an MDF core must be made utilizing certified raw material with specified record-keeping requirements.

That’s your second fact for a customer. Not all flooring is indirectly regulated by TSCA. Solid wood flooring isn’t. Lumber core engineered flooring is not. LV or any of the varied new WPC type flooring is not. So you are not going to find a TSCA label on every floor, and that may confuse
some people. You need to know what’s covered. (This may be your most challenging point if you are selling them a non-regulated product.)

And speaking of what’s covered, you may run into confusion regarding enforcement dates and old inventory. It’s simply not possible to have everything in the world produced under TSCA all at once, so TSCA is coming into play in stages. The first stage is from June 1, 2018 to March 22, 2019. During this time all impacted products being manufactured in or imported into the U.S. must be either CARB- or TSCA-compliant.

That’s your third and potentially most important point to make to the end-user. CARB and TSCA have the same emissions standards, and the EPA has stated specifically and clearly that from June 1, 2018 to March 22, 2019 that a CARB-compliant floor is a TSCA-compliant floor. If your customer comes in saying “I wanted TSCA and you gave me CARB,” you can respond with confidence that the established emission levels for both programs are the same and TSCA has provided CARB production made in that first stage with reciprocal recognition.

(And you can sell that CARB-compliant material after March 22, 2019, as well, as long as it was produced/imported prior to that date.)

Now, you’ll note that we are talking emission levels here. You will often have requests for “formaldehyde-free flooring,” and that simply doesn’t exist. Formaldehyde is naturally occurring everywhere, all around us, and even in us. And it was put into wood by Mother Nature.

That’s our fourth discussion point: TSCA, like CARB and almost every Indoor Air Quality standard out there, is about emissions, not content. It doesn’t matter if you added formaldehyde into the floor during production. What matters is if it is coming out. TSCA doesn’t outlaw formaldehyde glues; it is not set up to restrict what goes in. TSCA was established to help control how much is coming out.

Those are probably your four key discussion points for TSCA. There are others of course – it’s a complicated regulation. But for your customer, you can make it pretty simple. Not all floors are regulated, and the EPA is not directly certifying the floors. CARB=TSCA in terms of products covered as well as for the established emission levels and it’s the emissions that you want to focus on, not the content.

For more on your responsibilities under TSCA as a regulated stakeholder, monitor my blog:

Elizabeth Baldwin is Environmental Compliance Officer for Metropolitan Hardwood Floors. This simplified summary of key consumer concepts is provided for general information purposes only. It is neither intended, nor should it be construed, as legal advice. TSCA Title VI, like all regulations, is incredibly complex and as this article was written, official agency guidance was still being developed. Companies or persons seeking legal advice on compliance with CARB or TSCA should consult with the regulatory agency directly and/or a qualified legal professional.

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