Formaldehyde in engineered wood products.

Not all things wood are 100% natural. Urea-formaldehyde resins (UF) are the most common binder in most composite wood products in the United States. During the life of such products, the UF binder continues to off-gas, according to Tom Lent, technical policy coordinator of Healthy Building Network, a national network of green building professionals and environmental advocates.

Formaldehyde has been shown to cause cancer in animals, according to the U.S Environmental Protection Agency. The risks are similar though not proven for humans. The EPA says formaldehyde can cause people to have health problems affecting the eyes, nose, throat and skin. But the Formaldehyde Council argues that formaldehyde is a natural chemical that is even produced by the human body.

Nonetheless, California is now pushing manufacturers to decrease the amount of formaldehyde emissions from composite wood products. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) is proposing legislation for stricter regulations in two phases.  By July 2008, the first phase requires manufacturers of particleboard, medium-density fiberboard (MDF) and hardwood plywood to reduce emssions to a certain level that is considered very feasible by most in the industry.  The second phase goes into effect in 2010. This stricter phase requires the same  manufacturers to reduce emissions as follows:

            Particleboard                                 reduce to  0.08 parts per million

            Hardwood Plywood                                        0.03 parts per million

            Medium-Density Fiberboard                            0.08 parts per million by 2012

It can be expensive to produce composite wood products without formaldehyde and that is a major concern among manufacturers. Some companies already produce products using alternative resins that comply with California’s stricter regulations, but those products are sold at a higher cost. Often these lower-emitting products are marketed for projects where the client is concerned about indoor air quality. Manufacturers worry that the regulation will increase prices of composite wood products.

Source:  Architectural Record, “Tech Briefs,” September 2006


How BBS panels are laminated.

The glue applied to the surface between the panel layers (parallel to the wall surface) is PU / open to diffusion / formaldehyde-free. The glue applied to the single ply between boards (perpendicular to the wall surface) is MUF / E1, has no impact on the vapor permeability of the wall and represents only a small fraction of the glue used overall in the lamination of a BBS panel.

According to European Standard EN 14342:2005 (Wood flooring) and EN 13986:2002 (Wood based panels), the requirement for Formaldehyde class E1 is <0.124 mg/m3 (E1 being the lowest emission standard). According to recent test results the recorded emission on a BBS sample chamber was 0.02 mg/m3.