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Volatile Organic Compounds 

Volatile Organic Compounds  (VOCs), inspected by Showalter Property Consultants in MarylandVolatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are a large group of chemicals that are found in many products we use to build and maintain our homes. Once these chemicals are in our homes, they are released or “off-gas” into the indoor air we breathe.What is formaldehyde?


Formaldehyde is a colorless, flammable gas at room temperature and has a strong odor. Exposure to formaldehyde may cause adverse health effects.

Where is formaldehyde found?

Formaldehyde is found in:

Resins used in the manufacture of composite wood products (i.e., hardwood plywood, particleboard and medium-density fiberboard);Building materials and insulation;Household products such as glues, permanent press fabrics, paints and coatings, lacquers and finishes, and paper products;Preservatives used in some medicines, cosmetics and other consumer products such as dishwashing liquids and fabric softeners; andFertilizers and pesticides.

It is a byproduct of combustion and certain other natural processes, and so is also found in:

Volatile Organic Compounds  (VOCs), inspected by Showalter Property Consultants in MarylandEmissions from un-vented, fuel burning appliances, like gas stoves or kerosene space heaters; andCigarette smoke.

Learn more from the Consumer Product Safety Commission about products that contain formaldehyde.

How can you be exposed to formaldehyde?

The primary way you can be exposed to formaldehyde is by breathing air containing off-gassed formaldehyde. Everyone is exposed to small amounts of formaldehyde in the air that has off-gassed from products, including composite wood products.

Learn how to protect yourself and your family from formaldehyde exposure.

Health effects of formaldehyde

Formaldehyde can cause irritation of the skin, eyes, nose, and throat. High levels of exposure may cause some types of cancers.

Frequent Questions for Consumers about the Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Products Act

Updated on January 28, 2019 1.What action did EPA take with this final rule? EPA finalized a rule to reduce harmful exposures to formaldehyde emitted into the air from certain composite wood products. This rule implements the formaldehyde emission standards and other provisions required under the Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Products Act, which added Title VI to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The final rule also establishes a third-party certification program for laboratory testing and oversight of formaldehyde emissions from manufactured and/or imported composite wood products.

2.What are composite wood products and what types are covered by the final rule? Composite wood products are created by binding strands, particles, fibers, veneers, or boards of wood together with adhesives (i.e., glues). There are three composite wood products regulated under the final rule: hardwood plywood, medium-density fiberboard (MDF, which includes thin-MDF), and particleboard. These composite wood products are commonly used in the manufacture of furniture, kitchen cabinets, flooring, picture frames and wooden children’s toys, among other products.

3.What is formaldehyde and how is it used in composite wood products? Formaldehyde is a colorless, flammable, strong-smelling chemical that is used in resins (i.e., glues) used in the manufacture of composite wood products (i.e., hardwood plywood, particleboard and medium-density fiberboard).

4.What are the health effects of formaldehyde exposure? Formaldehyde exposure can have a negative effect on health, both in the short and long term. Formaldehyde can cause irritation of the skin, eyes, nose, and throat. High levels of exposure may cause some types of cancers.

5.When do the emission standards requirements come into force? The formaldehyde emission standards come into force beginning June 1, 2018. By June 1, 2018, and until March 22, 2019, regulated composite wood panels and finished products containing such composite wood panels that are manufactured (in the United States) or imported (into the United States) must be certified as compliant with the TSCA Title VI or the California Air Resources Board (CARB) Airborne Toxic Control Measures (ATCM) Phase II emission standards by a third-party certifier (TPC) approved by CARB and recognized by EPA. All regulated composite wood products, and finished goods containing composite wood products, manufactured in or imported into the United States after March 22, 2019 are required to be certified as TSCA Title VI compliant by an EPA TSCA Title VI TPC with all of the required accreditations.Additionally, laminated products not exempted from the definition of hardwood plywood must be tested and certified as meeting the hardwood plywood formaldehyde emission standard beginning March 22, 2024.

6.Who is subject to the final rule requirements?Those who sell, supply, offer for sale, manufacture or import composite wood products are subject to the final rule requirements. This includes manufacturers, importers, fabricators (e.g., furniture makers) distributors and retailers. Third party certifiers (TPCs) who certify that composite wood products are compliant with the EPA rule and accreditation bodies who accredit and oversee the TPCs are also affected by the rule.

7.What are the formaldehyde emission standards for covered composite wood products? The formaldehyde emission standards vary by type of regulated product. In the table below, the product is aligned with its emission standard in parts per million (ppm).

  • ProductEmission
  • StandardHardwood Plywood –Veneer Core0.05 ppm of formaldehydeHardwood
  • Plywood –Composite Core0.05 ppm of formaldehyde
  • Medium-Density Fiberboard0.11 ppm offormaldehyde
  • Thin Medium-Density Fiberboard0.13 ppm of formaldehydeParticleboard0.09 ppm of formaldehyde