A new bill introduced to the US Senate would establish national heath standards for formaldehyde in Chinese composite wood products used in housing construction. Shipments of certain building products from China, such as fiber board and drywall, popular during the housing boom, are now under increased scrutiny concerning the overall quality of such products. The bill arrives amid ongoing concerns from homeowners seeking abatement from lenders as their assets are burdened by potentially dangerous products like Chinese drywall. The imports of the dangerous materials have increased dramatically in the past decade – with China as the main source, according to a release from Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who introduced the bill with Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho). A Florida attorney negotiated 90-day abatements, which suspended the mortgage payments for clients who could no longer afford the monthly cost of the loan and the temporary living expense of moving away from the “toxic” homes. With the rise of the housing boom, concerns have grown about the health hazards posed by high concentrations of formaldehyde, and the domestic wood products industry adopted voluntary standards in response. But competing imports – mainly from China – may contain higher amounts the chemical. Formaldehyde is present in resins used as adhesive during the manufacturing of pressed wood products. The Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Act, would establish national emission standards under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) for formaldehyde in new composite wood products, but secondhand products and antiques are exempt. Under the proposed legislation, these products sold in the U.S. would have to meet a formaldehyde emission standards of about 0.09 parts per million by Jan. 1, 2012 – making the regulations the toughest in the world. “High levels of formaldehyde are a health threat. This bill will establish national standards that, when fully phased-in, will be the strongest in the world. These standards will both protect public health and ensure an even playing field between domestic wood products and foreign imports,” said Klobuchar. Concerns continue to rise over imported drywall from China. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) tested samples of Chinese drywall imported between 2004 and 2008 and found certain potentially harmful chemicals not present in drywall manufactured in the US, according to EPA analysis. Write to Jon Prior.

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