Back in 2006, I didn’t have a clue what formaldehyde in cabinetry was, until the issue was raised by a long-standing customer of our kitchen and bathroom cabinets. That customer was the Buying Agent of a company in Japan – where more or less all composite wood (particleboard, MDF and chipboard) and VOC (volatile organic compound) related products are classed as non-eco-friendly. It was following his comments that I undertook my own research, which became something of a revelation.
MDF, often used for the carcasses of kitchen units, is made of wood fibres which are compressed and combined with wax and a resin binder (adhesive). It’s this binder which contains formaldehyde; one of the best known VOCs, which becomes a gas at room temperature. While those from paint and lacquers dissipate fairly quickly, with most off-gassing occurring during the first six months after application, composite wood may continue to off-gas for twenty years or more. Long term exposure to high levels of formaldehyde can cause respiratory problems and other health issues, while to some it may be carcinogenic.
In fact, in parts of Europe, America and Australia, MDF cannot be sold without a health warning label because of the risks presented by formaldehyde and from 1st June 2018, products with high levels of VOC have been banned in some countries.
As formaldehyde is a chemical compound which occurs naturally, it cannot be completely avoided. However, some have questioned whether the increase in allergies could indicate that we are becoming less tolerant of the higher levels to which our bodies are often submitted. They argue that we might be healthier and breathe more easily if we greatly reduce the VOCs in products around us.
Wood & Wood recently supplied an interior designer with a kitchen for a client who had an allergy to formaldehyde. We used 100% solid wood, formaldehyde-free adhesives and low VOC paint and lacquers which dramatically reduced the volume of formaldehyde gas released – thereby giving the client an acceptable and healthy environment.
For more information on our low emission cabinets, formaldehyde-free adhesives and low VOC paints and lacquers, contact our Head Office.