Buying, trading, and selling wood is a global industry. From plantation grown species like Southern yellow pine (Pinus spp.) to species grown in South America like jatoba (Hymenaea courbaril) forest management is the key to sustainability. Understanding the supply chains that are associated with the products that are made from the forests is important. Recently, this has been highlighted by reports published by a Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO) on a species known as taun (Pometia pinnata). The report indicates that the supply chain for the species may not be as simple as once thought. In a report published by Global Witness, issues associated not with the species itself, but with how rights for harvesting the material are handled by certain governments is explored.
Before proceeding with new suppliers, new species or evaluating existing suppliers, it is important to examine the supply chain. This includes evaluations of who owns the forest, who has the right to harvest material, how the material is sold, and even how the material is processed, at a minimum.
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May 1, 2015
You may be hearing and reading stories concerning testing we did of flooring products for a client in Dallas, Texas.
We wanted you to hear directly from us what happened.
We were asked to test two flooring samples. We did.
The client did not tell us where the flooring was purchased or manufactured.
The client then violated our terms of agreement by releasing our report without proper approvals and inferring we knew the source of the flooring.
We did not.
All of our reports are clearly marked with this: “This report has been produced for the exclusive use of (client) and may not be reproduced except in its entirety, and only with the expressed, written approval of BMI. No one other than BMI’s client shall be entitled to rely on upon this report or the information contained herein.”
This client did not seek approval to release the data in the report.
We take the confidentiality of our client relationships very, very seriously. We are extremely unhappy this client violated that relationship. Therefore, we have terminated our relationship with this client and asked them to discontinue using this report and the data it contains.
If you have any questions, call me.
Travis R. Snapp
Managing Director, Benchmark International
Please see the joint industry statement related to a 60 Minutes story about Lumber Liquidators and specifically concerning the utilized test methodology to measure formaldehyde. As the second accredited laboratory engaged by 60 Minutes for small chamber analysis of deconstructed flooring samples the attached statement is reflective of our opinion of the ARB SOP.
Without preference to any party involved in the 60 Minutes report and from a purely technical aspect, there exist nearly limitless production and processing variables that will impact the original emission profile of a regulated composite wood product. In current conversations taking place throughout the market there exists an assignment of explicit compliance with the emission requirements of the Airborne Toxic Control Measure. In our opinion this is an improper way to view any test result utilizing the ASTM D6007 test method – either when measuring emissions from a ‘raw’ regulated panel and especially from a ‘deconstructed’ regulated panel. From the ASTM D6007-14 method alone:
13. Precision and Bias
- 13.1 A study including seven laboratories and four test materials was conducted in accordance with Practice E691 and resulted in the following statements for precision and bias.
- 13.1.1 Repeatability – Test results indicate a repeatability (within laboratory) precision standard deviation ranging from 0.01 to 0.02 for products emitting 0.06 to 0.24 ppm of formaldehyde.
- 13.1.2 Reproducibility – Test results indicate a reproducibility (laboratory) precision standard deviation ranging from 0.02 to 0.05 for products emitting 0.06 to 0.24 ppm of formaldehyde, respectively.
We fully support the efforts of the California Air Resources Board to improve indoor air quality. Benchmark actively participates with the agency as changes are made to the CARB ATCM and we maintain an open door policy for members of the Air Resources Board to enter our laboratory at all times; the United States Environmental Protection Agency accepted the same offer and has spent time in our laboratory while promulgating the U.S. National Formaldehyde Regulation. Our concern for the quality of air in homes, offices, schools and commercial structures is now being extended into even more stringent regulatory schemes such as the California Department of Public Health Section 01350 which we cover through our VOC Green program. Indoor air quality is important and clean air benefits everyone.
The circumstances surrounding the current conversations and search for answers regarding the different test methods utilized by different entities has compelled us to provide this simple analysis – Precise, reproducible results from material tested using ASTM D6007 is difficult at best. The variability found in the 2013 CARB Interlaboratory Comparison (Benchmark ID: NN) demonstrates this.
We are not discounting the SOP as irrelevant, it can be used as a tool by technically competent and trained regulatory agencies to warrant further investigation into a product. We do not agree with the assignment of explicit ‘compliance’ or ‘non-compliance’ of a product when tested in this manner.
The opportunity to participate with a storied institution such as 60 Minutes was an honor for us. Each of us here can replay the voices of Safer, Cronkite, Rooney and many others which we heard so often growing up. Our decision to participate with this project came from a sense of responsibility that we needed to try our best to explain a highly complex environmental regulation and the test methods used – the ATCM has many nuances that are difficult to grasp. This statement too is born from a sense of responsibility – we are being bombarded with questions from every corner of the nation about this issue. Applying precise measurement techniques to an inhomogeneous product created in an imperfect manufacturing environment is impractical. The merits of the language of the ATCM can be argued by attorneys, politicians and regulators and is not a discussion we will enter. Opening a dialogue concerning the technical aspects of test methods used within the regulation is a discussion we have entered before and continue to participate in today.
Travis R. Snapp
Managing Director, Benchmark International (BMI)
Chief Operating Officer, Benchmark Holdings (BMH)
Recently, the CBS program 60 Minutes aired a piece on Chinese-made laminated flooring that was tested for formaldehyde emissions. Benchmark International was one of the labs hired to test products purchased and supplied by 60 Minutes. Benchmark International tested all products provided using CARB’s testing methodology and standard operating procedures.
On May 16, 2013, Benchmark International COO Travis Snapp testified before the Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans and Insular Affairs during the Oversight Hearing on “The 2008 Lacey Act Amendments.”
The video below features excerpts of Travis’ testimony from that hearing.
The EPA recently released a new regulation to protect the public from exposure to formaldehyde. This new regulation includes additional products not covered by CARB and will impact multiple businesses throughout the wood products industry at both the primary and secondary points of manufacture.
We’re Here to Help
At Benchmark International, we’re here to support the industry and help you make sense of new laws. As we study this latest regulation, we will keep you updated with what you need to do. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us at 1-541-484-9212 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Join Us for a Free Webinar
In the near future, Benchmark, in conjunction with Oregon State University’s Wood Science Engineering Department, will hold a free webinar to address the implications of the formaldehyde regulation. Watch for an announcement and invitation to follow.
Read a Summary of the Regulation
We’ve included a summary of the new regulation below, straight from the EPA website. To view the full regulation, click here. We’ve also included two in-depth prepublication versions of the proposed EPA rules:
Proposed Rules to Implement the Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Products Act (TSCA Title VI)
The EPA proposed two rules aimed at protecting the public from the risks associated with exposure to formaldehyde. The first proposal would implement formaldehyde emission standards under TSCA Title VI, and would apply to hardwood plywood, medium-density fiberboard, particleboard, and finished goods containing these products that are sold, supplied, offered for sale, or manufactured (including imported) in the United States.
The second proposal would establish a framework for a third-party certification program to ensure that composite wood panel producers comply with the formaldehyde emission limits established under TSCA Title VI.
These rules will protect people against the risks posed by formaldehyde emitted from composite wood products. These rules will also put in place one national set of standards for companies that manufacture or import these products and ensure the same protections for all Americans.
This rule also includes implementing provisions for:
First Proposed Rule: Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Products Act Implementing Regulation
As required by the law, the first proposal sets limits on how much formaldehyde may be released from composite wood products, including hardwood plywood, medium-density fiberboard, particleboard and finished goods containing these products, that are sold, supplied, offered for sale, manufactured, or imported in the United States. It also includes protective yet common sense exemptions from some testing and recordkeeping requirements for products made with no-added formaldehyde resins. This proposal includes additional implementing provisions for:
- Laminated products
- Testing requirements
- Product labeling
- Chain of custody documentation, and other recordkeeping requirements
- Product inventory sell-through provisions, including a product stockpiling prohibition
Second Proposed Rule: Third-Party Certification Framework
The law also requires the establishment of a third-party certification program to ensure that composite wood panel producers comply with the established emission limits. Under the proposed framework, third-party certifiers (TPCs) would be required to apply to EPA-recognized accreditation bodies who would verify the certifiers’ ability to ensure that panel producers comply with the formaldehyde emission standards. Under this rule, TPCs would audit composite wood panel producers and verify compliance with the formaldehyde emission standards.
- TPCs would be responsible for activities such as:
- Regularly auditing composite wood panel producers
- Conducting and verifying formaldehyde emissions tests
- Ensuring that panel producers’ quality assurance/quality control procedures and testing complies with the TSCA Title VI implementing regulations
Benchmark International holds the following accreditations, which are all proposed requirements of the EPA regulation:
ISO/IEC Guide 65 Accredited
ISO/IEC 17020 Inspection Agency Accredited
ISO/IEC 17025 Testing Laboratory Accredited