Frequently Asked Questions: Enforcement
(HWPW = hardwood plywood; HWPW-VC = hardwood plywood veneer core; HWPW-CC = hardwood plywood composite core; PB = particleboard; MDF = medium density fiberboard)
1. How does CARB enforce the composite wood products ATCM? CARB's approach to enforcing the composite wood products ATCM is consistent with our approach to enforcing all of our regulations. CARB conducts inspections at various points in the product distribution chain from manufacturers to retailers. Inspections may include review of products for compliance with labeling requirements, review of documentation, and/or collection of samples for emissions testing. Additional investigation may result from an initial inspection. Other enforcement activity may include requests for documents and use of other investigative tools. Enforcement options include administrative, civil, and/or criminal penalties.
2. When enforcing the regulations, will CARB require the retailer to produce chain-of-custody documents even if product emissions are compliant? Would this be a punishable violation of regulations? Yes. Recordkeeping is an important part of the ATCM. In the course of inspecting a retailer, we can ask to see the chain-of-custody documents that verify the emission characteristics of the products being offered for sale.
3. In what form and how long are records required to be kept? Records must be kept in electronic or hard copy form for a minimum of two years and provided to CARB or local air district personnel upon request.
4. How will CARB police wood products sold into California via the Internet? CARB's enforcement staff will purchase products from Internet retailers and if through enforcement testing the product is found to be noncompliant, CARB will track the paper trail for the noncompliant product back through the distribution chain (e.g., manufacturers, distributors, importers, or fabricators) to determine who is in violation of the ATCM.
5. How will CARB enforce composite wood products that are produced overseas? In the case of noncompliant products being imported from overseas, it is likely that in most cases the importer will ultimately be held responsible as they are bringing the goods into California. However, importers, as well as distributors, retailers, fabricators, or manufacturers can all be held responsible for the products that they sell or supply in California. Parties bringing composite wood products into California are responsible for knowing and following the law. In the event of a violation of the emission standards, everyone from the board manufacturer to the retailer and all parties in between are potentially liable until the enforcement investigation determines otherwise. There is no product certification or chain of custody that insulates anyone from an enforcement action. CARB enforcement staff will evaluate each situation on a case by case basis.
6. Will an importer who happens to be a good faith purchaser, obtaining all the required documentation be at more fault than a distributor who purchases from a domestic mill? No. Any party bringing noncompliant goods into California is subject to enforcement action by CARB. Importers of noncompliant foreign goods are equally liable as distributors of noncompliant domestic products.
7. Does it matter if the importer is importing raw board or a finished product (furniture)? All composite wood products, including raw boards and finished goods containing composite wood products, are required to comply with the ATCM and will be equally enforced.
8. In order to be best prepared for a potential inspection, what type of information should fabricators and retailers have available for CARB enforcement staff? With regard to potential inspections, fabricators and retailers need to keep records to show they've taken "reasonable prudent precautions" to ensure compliance. These records need to be kept in hard copy or electronic form and must show that the fabricators and retailers instructed their suppliers of the need for complying products. The fabricators and retailers must also keep records to show that their suppliers have stated that the products being provided comply with the formaldehyde emission standards.
9. How will CARB test pre-assembled case goods made of composite wood products (e.g., a small table) that are painted, with no edges unsealed? CARB will purchase case goods, deconstruct them, remove the paint, and test the exposed composite wood product surface using our enforcement test method. CARB staff has developed the sample preparation protocol to be followed to remove the layer of paint or laminate, and then will determine if the composite wood product in the case good complies with applicable standards or not.
10. We make furniture using structural plywood, which is not visible in the finished furniture. What records do we need to keep to demonstrate that we are not using regulated composite wood products (PB, MDF, HWPW)? Structural plywood that meets either the NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) PS 1-07 or PS 2-04 standard is excluded from the definition of composite wood products in the ATCM, and no records are required to be kept by the ATCM. However, fabricators would be advised to keep invoices to show that the composite wood they use is structural plywood and not HWPW (for additional infomration concerning structural plywood, refer to question #27 of Applicable Products FAQs).
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