CARB Regulation

California Air Resources Board (CARB)

Air Toxic Control Measure (ATCM)
On January 1, 2009, California began regulating the formaldehyde emissions from composite wood products (particleboard, medium density fiberboard and hardwood plywood) sold in the state or used to make finished goods offered for sale in the state.  All products containing composite wood products must compy with the new regulation.  The following information and resources are provided to assist in understanding the requirements stipulated by the regulation and to communicate SierraPine’s compliance with the regulation.

General Overview
a. Summary of Rule
b. Emission Limits and Compliance Dates
c. Sell Through Provisions
d. Hardwood Plywood Manufacturer/Laminator Designation
e. Distributor/Retailer Designation
f. Key Definitions

SierraPine Compliance
a. SierraPine Compliance Status
b. Proof of Compliance
c. Documentation & Labeling Requirements

a. NAF Exempt Classification
b. ULEF Exempt Classification

Requirements of Distributors & Fabricators
a. Definition of Panel Manufacturer vs. Fabricator/Finished Products Manufacturer
b. Record Keeping
c. Product Labeling Requirements
d. Proof of Compliance - Documentation Requirements

LINK TO CPA’s CARB RULE WEBSITE - your resource to California ATCM 93120 Compliance  


Summary of Rule

The CARB ATCM (statute #CCR 93120) is a regulation that establishes ceiling limits for formaldehyde emissions from particleboard, medium density fiberboard (MDF) and hardwood plywood (HWPW) sold in the state of California, along with rigorous compliance demonstration requirements.  The regulation does not include hardboard (see definition in this section following Distributor/Retailer Designation), softwood plywood, OSB, engineered lumber or other engineered wood products.  While this is a raw board regulation, it will also be enforced on semi-finished and finished products sold in California that contain any quantity of these three panel products singularly or in combination.  The regulation is being implemented in two steps or phases.  The first step, Phase 1, becomes effective on January 1, 2009 for most products.  Phase 2 drops emission limits significantly and becomes effective between January 1, 2010 and July 1, 2012, depending on the product.  The following table summarizes the effective dates for all products included in the regulation and the emission levels for each product for both phases.  All emission limits are expressed in parts per million (PPM).

Emission Limits and Compliance Dates

Effective Date





Thin MDF

1/1/2009 P1 - 0.08   P1 - 0.18 P1 - 0.21 P1 - 0.21
7/1/2009   P1 - 0.08      
1/1/2010 P2 - 0.05        
1/1/2011     P2 - 0.09 P2 - 0.11  
1/1/2012         P2 - 0.13
7/1/2012   P2 - 0.05      
HWPW VC = Hardwood Plywood with a Veneer Core substrate
HWPW CC = Hardwood Plywood with a Composite [Panel] Core (PB or MDF)
Thin MDF = MDF that has a thickness ≤ 5/16” (.3125”)
P1 = Phase 1 emission limits
P2 = Phase 2 emission limits

Sell Through Provisions

Recent changes to the Sell-Through Provisions can be reviewed via CARB's website and differ from the initial provisions in the Rule which are provided below. 

The regulation includes a significant section called “Sell Through Provisions”.  These provisions were developed out of consideration that it may take some time to purge inventories of non-compliant composite panel products, and the finished products containing composite panels, throughout the value chain.  This is, in effect, a grace period that allows non-compliant product to continue to be sold in California after the regulation goes into effect.  It is very important to understand these provisions, as they will impact companies throughout the value chain differently.  The following table summarizes these sell through provisions.

Group Grace Period from Effective Date
Panel Manufacturer 3 months
Distributors - Raw Panels 5 months
Importers - Raw Panels 3 months
Distributors/Importers - Finished Products 18 months
Fabricators 18 months
Retailers - Raw Panels 12 months
Retailers - Finished Products 18 months

These sell through provisions apply to both the Phase 1 and Phase 2 compliance deadlines in the same way.  For example, particleboard producers (Panel Manufacturer group) can sell non-compliant product produced prior to January 1, 2009 until March 31, 2009 for Phase 1, and until March 31, 2011 for Phase 2 for products produced prior to January 1, 2011.  It is critical to understand that panels produced on or after the effective date must comply with the emissions limits for the applicable effective date and the sell through provisions will not apply.  So, in the case of a fabricator using raw particleboard under the Phase 1 requirements, they can use non- compliant board produced prior to January 1, 2009 in the manufacture of their finished product as long as that finished product is sold to the final consumer prior to July 1, 2010.

These provisions are not cumulative, meaning that downstream customers cannot add their sell through provision to the grace period of another segment in the value chain.  All sell through provisions are based on the effective dates of the regulation.

Products included in the Panel Manufacturer group are defined as raw unfinished panels.  All of SierraPine’s products fall under this group. In the case of hardwood plywood, products included in the Panel Manufacturer group are defined as unfinished veneer laminated panels as explained below.

Hardwood Plywood Manufacturer/Laminator Designation

Through clarification from CARB staff, one of the key distinctions they have made is in the difference between a hardwood plywood manufacturer and a laminator/fabricator that laminates veneer.  A laminator is synonymous with a fabricator.  This distinction is critical to understand, as a HWPW panel manufacturer has only a 3 month grace period and must meet all the testing, Quality Control (QC) procedures and documentation requirements of the regulation, whereas a company meeting the definition of a fabricator has an 18 month grace period to utilize non-compliant substrate and is only required to show proof of using a substrate that meets the applicable emission limits.  A fabricator is not required to have a detailed QC process in place, does not have to perform regular in- house formaldehyde testing and is not required to submit samples for large chamber tests.

A HWPW manufacturer is a company that lays up veneer over a veneer core or a composite panel core that is unfinished and is produced for a non-discriminate application; or is not predestined for a specific component or finished good at the time of production.  HWPW products that fall into the Panel Manufacturer group would include stock panels for general wholesale or distribution and are allowed a three month grace period.

Conversely, if a company laminates veneer to a veneer core or composite panel core and then prefinishes that panel in some way, cuts it into a component, uses that specific panel for in-house manufacturing of a finished product, or sells the veneer laminated panel to another company for a specific pre-destined application, that company is considered a fabricator and is allowed to use a non-compliant substrate for an 18 month grace period.  The panel they manufactured (veneer laminated panel) is not required to be certified nor be tested according to the rigorous procedures that panel manufacturers must go through.  They must only document that they used a certified substrate.  However, if that same company also laminates veneer to panels for a distributor for stock inventory, that company may be subject to the requirements of a HWPW panel manufacturer. 

Companies that laminate other decorative surfaces including low pressure melamines (TFM), vinyls, papers and high pressure laminates (HPL), along with companies who prefinish panels with liquid or powder coatings, are considered fabricators.  All OEM companies producing a semi- finished or finished product, including components, are also considered fabricators.

Distributor/Retailer Designation

The other distinction that is important to highlight is the difference between a distributor and retailer.  The main difference is that a retailer sells a product directly to the final consumer.  We have sought clarification from CARB on this difference as well. 

For illustrative purposes under the Phase 1 requirements, if a company purchases raw particleboard from a panel manufacturer and resells that particleboard to a home improvement center (HIC), that company is a distributor and has 5 months to sell any non- compliant product they have in their inventory for particleboard produced prior to January 1, 2009.  In this example, the HIC is a retailer because they are selling that raw particleboard to a final consumer and has 12 months to sell their particleboard inventory produced prior to January 1, 2009 that is non- compliant.  However, if the distributor is selling raw particleboard to the HIC for shelving used as part of the racking system in the HIC, the distributor has actually made a retail sale and the HIC is the final consumer (or ultimate purchaser), thereby giving the distributor a 12 month grace period to sell any non-compliant particleboard they have in inventory produced prior to January 1, 2009 to the HIC for their racking application.

You are strongly encouraged to review the regulation on the CARB website regarding these provisions along with the complete list of definitions.  The examples above have been provided following many discussions with CARB, but there may be other scenarios that present the potential for inaccurate interpretations of these definitions and provisions.  For the purposes of this document, the key definitions in the regulation pertaining to these sell through provisions are listed below:

Key Definitions

Component Part - A fabricated part that contains one or more composite wood products and is used in the assembly of finished goods.

Distributor - Any person to whom a composite wood product or finished good is sold or supplied for the purposes of resale or distribution in commerce, except that manufacturers and retailers are not “distributors.”

Fabricator - Any person that uses composite wood products to make finished goods. “Fabricator” includes producers of laminated products.

Finished Goods - Any good or product, other than a panel, containing hardwood plywood, particleboard, or medium density fiberboard. Component parts are not “finished goods,” although they are used in the assembly of finished goods. “Finished goods” do not include used goods such as antiques or second-hand furniture. For the purposes of this subsection, a “used good” means a “finished good” that has previously been sold or supplied to the ultimate purchaser. “Ultimate purchaser” means the first person who in good faith purchases or acquires a “finished good” for purposes other than resale.

Hardboard - A composite panel composed of cellulosic fibers, made by dry or wet forming and hot pressing of a fiber mat with or without resins, that complies with one of the following ANSI standards: “Basic Hardboard” (ANSI A135.4-2004), “Prefinished Hardboard Paneling” (ANSI A135.5-2004), or “Hardboard Siding” (ANSI A135.6-2006).

Hardwood Plywood (HWPW) - A panel composed of an assembly of (A) hardwood layers or plies of veneer or (B) veneers in combination with a platform consisting of lumber core, composite core, a special core material, or special back material, joined with an adhesive. The face veneer may be composed of a hardwood or decorative softwood species (ANSI/HPVA HP-1-2004). “Hardwood plywood” includes wall paneling, industrial panels, and “hardwood plywood” panels used in making flooring. “Hardwood plywood” does not include laminated products, military specified plywood, or curved plywood.

Importer - The person or entity as defined in the regulations of the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, 19 Code of Federal Regulations, section 101.1.

Laminated Product - A finished good or component part of a finished good made by a fabricator in which a laminate or laminates are affixed to a platform. If the platform consists of a composite wood product, the platform must comply with the applicable emission standards.

Panel - Any particleboard, medium density fiberboard, or hardwood plywood board produced for sale, supply, or distribution by a composite wood product manufacturer.

Retailer - Any person or entity that sells, offers for sale, or supplies directly to consumers composite wood products or finished goods that contain composite wood products.

Third Party Certifier - An organization or entity approved by the Executive Officer that: (A) verifies the accuracy of the emission test procedures and facilities used by manufacturers to conduct formaldehyde emission tests, (B) monitors manufacturer quality assurance programs, and (C) provides independent audits and inspections.

Veneer - Thin sheets of wood peeled or sliced from logs for use in the manufacture of wood products such as plywood, laminated veneer lumber, laminated products, or other products.


SierraPine, like all other panel manufacturers, is required to have all their products certified that are or could be sold into California for consumption in California.  We have chosen to certify all our products through the Composite Panel Association (CPA) who was the first Third Party Certifier (TPC-1) accredited by CARB.  The following table summarizes the current status of our certification for all products.

SierraPine Compliance Status


CARB Certification Status Notes
Adel, GA

Available as either Phase 1 or Phase 2 certified

NAF Exemption Executive Order granted April 9, 2013 - achieved for Encore

All standard Particleboard products.

Includes Encore



Martell, CA

Phase 2 certification achieved for all standard products

NAF Exemption Executive Order granted February 11, 2013 - achieved for Encore


All standard Particleboard products.

Includes Encore


Springfield, OR Available as either Phase 1 or Phase 2 certified

Phase 2 certification achieved for Encore
Medford, OR

Phase 2 certification acheived

NAF Exempt Executive Order granted March 17, 2011


All standard MDF, door part and moulding products.

Includes Arreis, Medex, Medite II, Medite FR.


Rocklin, CA TMDF Phase 1 and Phase 2 certification achieved for all products  

For copies of SierraPine’s CARB Certificates - CLICK HERE

Proof of Compliance

There are many benchmarks panel manufacturers must attain to demonstrate compliance to this regulation, including daily in-house testing of emissions, a rigorous QC program and documented procedures, passing unannounced on-site audits by their third party certifier and achieving passing emission results from regular large chamber testing. 

Documentation & Labeling Requirements

The regulation also requires panel manufacturers to use certain language on individual panels and/or unit tickets, and use certain language on bill of ladings and/or invoices, confirming their certification.  SierraPine will only include this language on unit tickets, and not individual panels, as we have determined that labeling each panel is not practical.  Furthermore, we will only show the required language on invoices, as bills of lading may become lost or misplaced during transportation or receiving.  Our invoice will therefore be the proof of compliance relied upon by our customers to document their purchase of compliant particleboard, MDF or TMDF supplied by SierraPine.  No other documentation from SierraPine is necessary for our customers to demonstrate they acted in good faith in purchasing compliant product from us.

As SierraPine is certifying products to this ATCM through the CPA under the Eco- Certified Composite Panel Certification (ECC 4-11), here is the information that will appear on our unit tags:
• ECC logo (Correct print colors, grayscale, or black and white) with “California ARB Approved Third Party Certifier TPC-1” in close proximity to logo
• Verbiage “Complies with CPA ECC 4-11, ANSI A208.1, HUD 24 CFR Part 3280, and CCR 93120 (CARB Composite Wood ATCM Phase {1 or 2 }) Formaldehyde Emission Limits”
• Company name
• Mill address (town and state)
• Mill number
• Production date
• Production shift/crew
• Lot or batch number

The information that will appear on our invoices for Phase 1 and Phase 2 compliant products will be as follows:

California ARB Approved Third Party Certifier TPC-1. This product is certified to the CARB ATCM 93120 Phase 1 (or Phase 2) emission limit.

See below for the labeling requirements for exempt products.

While we encourage full use of the sell through provisions discussed above, it is important to understand that once product leaves our plant it cannot be relabeled nor represented as CARB certified, regardless of the emission characteristics of the panel.  Therefore, you are encouraged to turn your inventory as soon as possible.


In an effort to encourage panel manufacturers to switch to lower emitting resin formulations, CARB has developed two types of exemptions that significantly reduce the burdens of complying to either Phase 1 or Phase 2:

- NAF (No Added Formaldehyde) Exempt
- ULEF (Ultra Low Emitting Formaldehyde) Exempt

Resin formulations that meet the NAF definition are those that do not contain any added formaldehyde in their formulation.  CARB provides examples of these types of resins.  CARB does not provide any specific requirements for the resins that could be used for the ULEF Exempt category.  The only requirement is a six (6) month demonstration of maintaining emissions at or below a 0.04 PPM level for 90% of samples tested with a ceiling of 0.06 PPM.  Some of the resins that could be used include Urea- Formaldehyde (UF), Phenol Formaldehyde (PF), Melamine Urea-Formaldehyde (MUF) and Melamine Formaldehyde (MF). Applications for these exemptions are submitted directly to the Executive Officer of the Air Resources Board and last for two years.  There are many requirements that have to be met to achieve these exemptions, but the main one is demonstration of emissions at a 0.04 PPM level or lower.  As noted above, SierraPine’s SDF products have been granted NAF Exempt status by CARB, effective 12/5/08.

It is important to note that products gaining this exemption are not technically “certified”.  The certification process is an ongoing demonstration of regular (daily) in-house emission testing and corresponding large chamber tests conducted by third party laboratories validating the test results at the plant.  Gaining Exempt Status removes the requirement to test and certify these products because the emissions are so low.  The regulation requires that unit tickets and invoices use the statement, “This product is produced with No Added Formaldehyde” on unit tickets and invoices.  However, recognizing that there may be confusion about exempt products meeting Phase 1 or Phase 2, we received approval from CARB to add the following language, “Meets the CARB ATCM 93120 Phase 2 emission limits”.


Distributors, Importers & Retailers

Distributors, Importers and Retailers must take “reasonable and prudent” precautions to ensure that the composite wood products and composite wood products contained in finished goods they purchase comply with the emission standards.  Reasonable prudent precautions include, at a minimum, instructing each supplier that the composite wood products and finished goods they supply to a distributor, importer or retailer must comply with the applicable emission standards, and obtaining written documentation from each supplier that this is so.

Record Keeping
In addition, distributors, importers and retailers must keep records showing the date of purchase and the supplier of composite panels and/or finished goods, and document the precautions taken to ensure that these products comply with applicable emission standards.  These records must be kept in electronic or hard copy for a minimum of two years and provided to ARB or local air district personnel upon request.

Product Labeling
If a distributor or importer does not modify the raw panel or finished product, no additional product labeling is required.  If products are modified, see the Fabricator section below.

Proof of Compliance
For each composite wood product or finished good made with these materials, the distributor and importer must state on the bill of lading or invoice that the composite wood products or finished goods comply with the applicable Phase 1 or Phase 2 emission requirements.


As discussed above, fabricators that produce laminated products, and not composite wood products, are not required to comply with the third party certification requirements.  Taking reasonable and prudent precautions and the record keeping requirements, as described in the Distributor/Importer/Retailer section above, also applies to Fabricators.

Product Labeling
Fabricators must label their finished goods containing composite wood products destined for sale in California.  The label shall be applied as a stamp, tag, sticker, or bar code on every finished good produced, or on every box containing finished goods.  The label shall include, at a minimum, the fabricator’s name, the date the finished good was produced and a marking to denote that the product was made with composite wood products that comply with the applicable Phase 1 or Phase 2 emission limits.  Finished goods shall be labeled as having been made with no added formaldehyde (NAF) based resins or ULEF resins if this is the case for all composite wood products contained in the finished product.

Proof of Compliance
Fabricators must designate their goods as being made with composite wood products that comply with the applicable emission limits on their bill of lading or invoice.