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Q & a: formaldehyde.

Q: I've heard that plywood has lots of formaldehyde in it, and that's not good to breathe. Then someone told me that local hardware stores now offer formaldehyde-free plywood. I checked, and the hardware store I contacted said that their plywood has a "safe" kind of formaldehyde in it. Is this true? What are the different types of formaldehyde and where do they occur in building materials?

A: Sources of formaldehyde in the home include building materials, cigarette smoking, household products, and the use of unvented, fuel-burning appliances, like gas stoves or kerosene space heaters. Formaldehyde is also used as a component of glues and adhesives and as a preservative in some paints and coating products.

The major sources of formaldehyde in most homes are from pressed-wood products made with urea-formaldehyde resins. Urea-formaldehyde resins are used as adhesives in materials such as hardwood plywood, particleboard, and medium-density fiberboard (MDF). MDF (found in many furniture products) has been tested to have the highest emissions over the longest period of time.

Other pressed wood products, such as softwood plywood and flake or oriented strandboard, are produced for exterior construction use and contain the dark-colored phenol-formaldehyde (PF) resin. Although formaldehyde is present in both types of resins, pressed woods that contain PF resin generally emit formaldehyde at considerably lower rates than those containing UF resin (EPA 402-K-93-007, April 1995). The PF resin is probably what the hardware gentleman was referring to as the least toxic of the two. This is only because of the lower rate of emissions, not because the formaldehyde form is actually safer. This is very important to understand because the healthier choice would be no exposure at all.

Sometimes, alternative options are not always available, so thanks to products like Safety Seal and Hard Seal sealer products, people don't have to be exposed. Others who can afford to go with solid wood like birch are doing so, but it can be very expensive and the cost depends on the thickness of the wood required for your project.

Audrey Franklin, chemist with Pure Life, Inc. in Norcross, GA lectures and writes frequently on environmental topics. Pure Life, Inc. is a southeastern supplier of environmental products such as paints, stains, sealers, organic bedding, and air/water purification products. Contact Pure Life at 770-493-7688 or visit them on-line at for additional information.
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Title Annotation:the healthy home
Author:Franklin, Audrey
Publication:New Life Journal
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2005
Previous Article:The bounty of the harvest.
Next Article:Vent-free fireplaces.

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