The California Air Resources Board (CARB) put regulations in place that require laminate flooring and other wood products manufactured, sold and used in California to have reduced levels of formaldehyde, a known lung irritant. The state instituted the levels in two phases. The Environmental Protection Agency considers formaldehyde a serious indoor pollutant that causes eye, throat and nose irritation, allergies and cancer in animals and possibly humans.
Formaldehyde is a common chemical used in manufacturing some clothing and many building products. Used in glues and finishes, the worst concentrations of formaldehyde occurs when products are manufactured with urea-formaldehyde (UF) rather than phenol-formaldehyde (PF), which emits less formaldehyde than the former. When wood products are new, they emit the most gases. Emissions also increase when the new materials are in a warm, unventilated building.
Beginning in January 2009, no laminated flooring could be sold in California that emitted more than 0.08 parts per million (ppm) of formaldehyde, which exceeded the national standards for formaldehyde safety. The second phase of California's regulations on wood products made with formaldehyde went into effect in January 2010 and through 2012, to reduce emissions to 0.05 ppm.
Manufacturers need to verify that their products are compliant with the CARB requirements for reduced emissions by submitting their products to third-party labs that certify the products. Retailers must keep computer or hard copy records for two years to show CARB inspectors that the laminated flooring products sold through their outlets was inspected. CARB also buys products from online stores or local retailers to verify that all the products that fall under the formaldehyde regulations meet the state's requirements for low emissions.
Using laminated products that are CARB-compliant reduces the amount of air pollution inside homes and buildings that benefit the building's occupants. As of July 2011, California is the only state to require low formaldehyde emissions, but people have many choices about the building products they use in their homes. CARB-compliant laminated floors are available outside of California. Builders and consumers can specify low-emitting products to use to create healthier interiors.