Thursday, March 12, 2015

Formaldehyde In Your Home

Chinese construction materials are back in the news, and the news is not good. This week, a major flooring manufacturer was accused of selling product in the United States that tested positive for high levels of formaldehyde.  The laminate flooring was labeled "CARB Phase 2–compliant," which refers to the California Air Resources Board's standards for formaldehyde emissions for flooring products. When independently tested by three labs, the laminate flooring in question had chemical levels far exceeding the acceptable standard.

Formaldehyde is a chemical that is used in manufactured wood product adhesives. It is in the resin used to hold layers of plywood together as well as a binder in MDF, or particle board. The most common resins used are urea-formaldehyde (UF), used in interior product, and phenol-formaldehyde (PF), used in exterior product. The reason formaldehyde is used as a binder is because it is effective and cheap.

The problem with formaldehyde, a known carcinogen, is that it continues to "off-gas" for years. Off-gassing is the chemical process where, simply put, the uncured product continues to evaporate or dry. It is the phenomenon that creates the "new car smell" when you purchase a new vehicle or the smell you experience for weeks after you paint a room. It is a process that is exacerbated by hot or humid climates.

Formaldehyde is a chemical (along with arsenic) that was banned in domestically made (US) wood products in 2009. It is still widely found in products made outside of the United States however. The real problem is that it is not only found in laminate flooring but in cheap cabinets and bargain furniture too. You can protect yourself and your family by taking precautions as you move forward with your renovations and new construction. There are safe and available alternatives.

Plywood manufactured in the United States utilizes methyl diisocyanate (MDI) as a resin. This is a polyurethane based product that is formaldehyde-free.  Seek businesses that manufacture products locally, using US made materials that you can ask for. Request domestic product and compare it side by side with Chinese product. You will easily see the difference. Of course, quality always comes at a price, which you must realistically expect.  Polyurethane products are petroleum based and come at a significant premium. You can expect to pay 25% more for domestic product, but what price is health and safety?

If you have any questions about this topic or would like to discuss your remodel project, call CG Interior Design (941) 346-7401.

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