CARB2: What is It?

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And What Does It Mean for You?

By Ryan Horvath

If you’ve started shopping for cabinetry, you might have heard something about CARB2. But what does it mean? What does it mean for you and your family? This week’s blog will educate you about CARB2, why it’s important, and what to look for.

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CARB stands for the California Air Resources Board. Known as the “clean air agency”, CARB is a department of the California Environmental Protection Agency. CARB2 is part of a two-phase implementation of California’s Composite Wood Products Regulation. In 2009, Phase 1 took effect.

The goal of Phase 1 was reducing formaldehyde emissions from wood products. These products include composite wood, hardwood plywood, particleboard, and medium-density fiberboard (MDF). To find its emission standard, CARB developed the Airborne Toxic Control Measurement (ATCM). The ATCM is different from other air quality standards. Instead of using averages, the ATCM uses caps for emission levels. Phase 1 capped formaldehyde emissions at .08 parts per million for hardwood plywood.

Phase 2 started in 2010. In the same year, CARB2 became the national standard for reducing formaldehyde emissions. The goal of Phase 2 was reducing formaldehyde emissions further. For hardwood plywood, the emission level reduced to .05 parts per million.


In 2011, the federal government added formaldehyde to its’ list of carcinogens. Formaldehyde is a volatile organic compound or VOC. A VOC is an organic chemical with a high vapor pressure at ordinary room temperature. In other words, it means the chemical releases or emits naturally at room temperature.

Wood-related industries, including cabinetry, use formaldehyde in their products. These industries use 70% of every 1 million metric tons of formaldehyde produced. Formaldehyde can be found in resin which composite wood products use as an adhesive. Formaldehyde can cause nose and throat irritation, difficulty in breathing, or burning eyes. It can also cause headaches and nausea. By reducing the emission levels, CARB2 helps ease these symptoms.


Products made with hardwood plywood, particleboard, or MDF must have appropriate labeling. The label must have the fabricator’s name, the production date, and if it is CARB1 or CARB2 Compliant. A Carb2 label will say “California 93120 Compliant for Formaldehyde” or “California Phase 2 Compliant”.


Ask about CARB2 while shopping around for cabinetry. Ensuring that your cabinetry is compliant gives your family peace of mind. For more peace of mind, know that all Choice Cabinet cabinetry is CARB2 Compliant. Our cabinetry is regularly tested by a third-party agency. Learn more about formaldehyde emission standards by the EPA by clicking here.

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