California restricts formaldehyde in wood products

It may be a land of earthquakes, smog, and drought, but California’s doing something right. In the latest in a string of forward-thinking green policies, state air regulators passed restrictions on formaldehyde in wood products that are the restrictiest in the world. “There is no safe threshold for this carcinogen, and we know how to eliminate it,” says Harry Demorest, CEO of Oregon’s Columbia Forest Products. His company, like some others, has moved away from formaldehyde, which is often used as a glue in plywood, fiberboard, and those cute little “you can build it!” furniture kits you’ve been buying. The new rules are slated to be phased in between 2009 and 2012, cutting formaldehyde emissions by nearly 60 percent. Nice for the lungs, but not so nice for the pocketbook: replacement products and plant tweaks are expected to cost manufacturers and retailers $19 million a year initially and $127 million a year down the road, and something tells us they’re not going to eat those price hikes.