California’s new regulations on formaldehyde emissions will make breathing easier
California’s Air Resources Board (CARB) adopted regulations in April 2007 that will reduce formaldehyde emissions from particleboard, hardwood plywood and medium density fiberboard (MDF) sold in California. Formaldehyde is routinely used as a binder in these products and many other building materials and furnishings.
CARB’s regulations will be phased in over the next five years, and by 2012 will set the most stringent restrictions on formaldehyde emissions in the world.
Composite wood products are found throughout our homes and are particularly ubiquitous in kitchens, where they are used for cabinets, shelves, countertop substrates and more. While CARB’s regulations are good news for public health in California and beyond, they won’t go into full effect for a few years.
In the meantime, here are some tips for reducing formaldehyde emissions in your kitchen and other rooms:
- Keep using your old cabinets. Formaldehyde emissions diminish over time, so your existing cabinets will likely have very low or undetectable emissions compared to new formaldehyde-based products.
- Buy old cabinets. Building material reuse stores are often overstocked with old cabinets taken out of people’s homes when they remodel. Make sure any cabinets you buy are sturdy and not contaminated with mold or lead-based paint. Hardware stores sell swabs for on-the-spot lead testing.
- Choose new cabinets, shelves and countertop substrates made from no-added formaldehyde materials. Solid wood and metal are two options. Also, a few particleboard, MDF and plywood manufacturers, including Columbia Forest Products and Sierra Pine, have stayed ahead of the regulatory curve and already make no-added formaldehyde products.
- Eliminate cabinets altogether or reduce the number in your home. Instead of cabinets, consider open shelves or freestanding furniture made of solid wood or metal.
- Seal exposed surfaces and edges of formaldehyde-based particleboard, interior-grade plywood and MDF with a zero-VOC sealant such as AFM’s Safecoat Safe Seal.
© Jennifer Roberts.
Originally published in Good Green News.