The California Air Resources Board, also known as CARB, is the "clean air agency" within the California Environmental Protection Agency. CARB is responsible for maintaining air quality and protecting the public from exposure to toxic air contaminants. Formaldehyde was designated as a toxic air contaminant (TAC) in California in 1992 with evidence that exposure does present a public health hazard. Formaldehyde is an important precursor to many other materials and chemical compounds and mainly used in the production of industrial resins and coatings. Health effects from formaldehyde exposure can include nose and throat irritation, a burning sensation of the eyes, difficulty in breathing, and it can also trigger asthma symptoms. Sensitive individuals may experience fatigue, headache, and nausea. Formaldehyde is also a known human carcinogen.
CARB evaluated formaldehyde and found that one of the major sources of exposure is from inhalation of formaldehyde emitted from composite wood products. Composite wood products are manufactured by binding the particles, fibers, or veneers of wood, together with adhesives, which are often based on formaldehyde chemistry. Billions of square feet of composite wood products including hardwood plywood (HWPW), particleboard (PB), and medium density fiberboard (MDF) are sold in California annually, primarily as finished products such as flooring, furniture, and cabinetry.