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In the United States, formaldehyde is regulated by a number of agencies. Perhaps the biggest and the most recent standard to regulate formaldehyde came in April of 2007. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) passed a law limiting the amount of formaldehyde emissions from composite wood products. Aimed at manufacturers of particle board, medium density fiberboard (MDF) and interior plywood, this standard will restrict formaldehyde to very low limits. 

U.S. California Airborne Toxic Control Measure to Reduce Formaldehyde Emission from Composite Wood Products: 

phase table

All testing must be conducted in accordance to ASTM E1333 (Large Chamber Test Method). This applies to panel manufacturers, distributors, importers, fabricators and retailers of hardwood, plywood, particleboard and medium-density fiberboard as well as finished goods containing those products that would be sold or supplied to California. 

Research conducted during the promulgation of the standard clearly showed that polyvinyl acetate, soy-based and MDI based adhesives had negligible levels of formaldehyde, if any, during the chamber testing. This standard exempts these adhesive products from third-party testing but requires the board manufacturers to perform ongoing testing. 

While formaldehyde-free adhesives are certainly going to be preferred to other adhesives for the new CARB standard, it is not mandatory that all adhesives used be formaldehyde-free. Many low-emitting formaldehyde adhesives will pass the strictest limits of the new CARB standard. One key point, however, is that chamber testing is performed on wood with the adhesive; the wood almost always contains some natural amount of residual formaldehyde. By using a formaldehyde-free adhesive, a manufacturer can eliminate the possibility that any formaldehyde emissions might come from the adhesive in the composite wood. It provides the assurance that the adhesive is not going to contribute to the testing results. This is the peace of mind many composite wood product manufacturers seek. Fortunately, at Franklin we considered this in the development of our newest line of wood adhesives; we now have adhesives that will meet this need. 

Europe’s formaldehyde regulations:

Most European nations have passed laws that regulate formaldehyde, now known as the E1 emissions class. Standards such as EN 312, EN 622-5 and EN 300 all require that the 0.1 mg/m3/h level be met. Testing for this mainly uses the Perforator Test Method (found in EN 120) and gas analysis (found in EN 717-1). In 2004, the European Standard EN 13986 established Emission Classes E1 and E2 for use in construction (the E1 level is most common). These standards basically require testing to be done on formaldehyde containing wood products used in construction. In 2006, these same methods and the associated limits became effective for panel production. The limits are listed below:

Emissions Class E1 and E2

     • Uncoated Particleboard/OSB/MDF = Less than 8 mg/100 g dry board (~0.10ppm)
     • Uncoated Hardwood Plywood/solid wood panels/LVL = Less than 0.13 mg/m3/h (~0.14ppm)
     • Coated Particleboard, OSB, MDF, etc = Less than 0.13 mg/m3/h (~0.14ppm)

Japan’s formaldehyde regulations:

In 2002, the Japanese Industry Standards (JIS) Committee amended the Japanese Building Standard Code in response to public health concerns over poor indoor air quality, what many call Sick Building Syndrome. Under the revised standard, all new habitable building construction in Japan requires that there be technical standards in place to regulate the air quality. One of the restrictions placed on building materials is the allowable level of formaldehyde emissions. As of July 2003, testing and certification requirements have been established for products that contain formaldehyde, namely composite wood building materials. The new standard also makes ventilation systems mandatory in all habitable buildings. A few of the building materials include plywood, wood flooring, structural panels, laminated veneer lumber, adhesives, paints and many others. Because it is very difficult, if not impossible, to eliminate formaldehyde from a building completely, the standard employs a tiered rating system based on the amount of formaldehyde emission a building material gives off. These are from “one-star” to “four-star” ratings, with the four-stars rating representing the lowest amount of formaldehyde emission. All testing must be done in accordance to either JIS A 1460-2001 (Building Boards Determination of Formaldehyde Emission – Desiccator Method) or JIS A 1901-2003 (Determination of the Emission of Volatile Organic Compounds and Aldehydes for Building Products – Small Chamber Method). The acceptable levels for formaldehyde emissions are listed below:


Typically only Three-Star or Four-Star levels are accepted unless the building’s ventilation system has taken formaldehyde exposures into account.

​All products must also be approved by the Japanese Ministry through an extensive application process that includes providing of desiccator data (JIS 1460) at minimum.

Summary of formaldehyde regulations and testing methods:

Below is a table that summarizes the various formaldehyde regulations:

Our green products:

Based on our knowledge of VOCs and formaldehyde, we feel confident most of our frequently used products used to produce hardwood plywood would pass phase 2 CARB standards. Our table illustrates some of our raw adhesives that would perform well in testing and not contribute to formaldehyde chamber emissions or high VOC levels. This table serves only as a guide. CARB as well as other international regulations, require the composite wood manufacturer to conduct third party testing of your substrate with the adhesive you are using to show passage of the regulation. The test is not designed for the raw adhesive.

If you would like further guidance on using our products to meet CARB standards or additional testing information, please feel free to contact us at 1.614.443.0241.

This brochure was printed from the most current information available at the time.

Please refer to the most recent CARB  guidelines for complete accuracy.