Last week I talked about process vs. product certification. Both can provide a good product, however, even under the best of systems and the most stringent of checks, you can still find production outside the standards. This is just the way the real world is and we know this. Unfortunately it is not apparent that all governmental agencies understand that right now.

If the process is certified, and the manufacturer is following the process, it is still possible for a limited amount of production to fall out of standard. Actually, that can happen with a product-based certification as well-the certifying body cannot check every single piece of plywood that ships out. In either case, it's not automatically their fault (neither the manufacturer's nor the certifier's)-as business people, we understand that in the real world, production is actually done within "established levels of tolerance." We recognize that, and it is hoped that the new regulations will find a way to recognize that as well.

Currently, CARB doesn't really recognize the real world production conditions. Remember that CARB was established based on a maximum standard. That is, the limits set are the maximum allowed emissions, where with most other international standards, the emissions are set as a range. As any panel manufacturer knows, it is impossible to guarantee that all panels within a production lot are going to be exactly equal in their emissions-a little extra glue in a void, a particularly absorbent patch of grain, a temporary clog in an injector-and any panel could run a little "hot" as a result.  

CARB does not have any allowance for a single panel in an entire lot being out of spec-it is hoped that the EPA's new rules will establish a de minis exclusion, meaning that if perhaps 3-5% of the lot reads "hot" but still under a specified limit, and all proper production procedures have been followed, the manufacturer is not going to be punished for a few boards that fall outside the standard.

One issue that will become more and more important as formaldehyde (and other certifications) become a greater factor in our industry is the question of due diligence and a degree of innocent owner protection. Already a major discussion point with Lacey, this is something that should be also discussed as CARB and the EPA establish their new rules. If a company has performed due diligence in making a purchase of a "certified" product, shouldn't that be taken into consideration? Should all their downstream customers be punished as well? Regulations that protect the consumer are good, but we should also write them in ways so that companies who are trying to do the right thing and take the extra steps are also protected.

Elizabeth Baldwin has over 20 years of international wood sourcing experience. Very widely traveled, her résumé's "Special Skills" section includes "the ability to eat anything from raw horse to deep-fried scorpion." She serves as Metropolitan Hardwood Flooring's (metrofloors.com) ECO (Environmental Compliance Officer) and deals daily with the "green alphabet soup" of today's industry: FSC, CARB, LEED, and much more. She blogs for Hardwood Floors on all things green (and, as she says, " 'grey' and 'blue' and almost every color except 'black and white.' Nothing in this world is black and white, particularly not 'green issues.'")