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Formaldehyde in Cabinets

I have heard that imported cabinets contain Formaldehyde, what if any drawbacks are there to these cabinets?

There has been much talk recently about the use of Formaldehyde in wood products. Formaldehyde is a chemical found in all living things. Formaldehyde exists naturally in People, plants and animals. All life forms contain a naturally small amount of formaldehyde. Added formaldehyde or Urea formaldehyde is used in a resin to harden wood products. Urea Formaldehyde is blended with resin and is relatively inexpensive to use. Urea Formaldehyde has great bonding strength and hardening properties when used in pressed wood products.

Why choose imported cabinets that may contain formaldehyde?

The perfect answer is quality and cost. A consumer can get quality imported cabinets at a lower cost than American goods. Many people today have tight budgets to work with and buying imported wood products is easier on their pocket book.

What is formaldehyde and where does it come from?

“Formaldehyde is a simple but essential organic chemical that occurs naturally in most forms of life, including people, some foods we eat and trees. All products made from wood will therefore emit some naturally occurring formaldehyde. It is widely used in the manufacture of numerous products including shampoos, plastics, carpets, clothing, resins and glues etc. A range of materials found in the home or workplace may therefore release formaldehyde.[1]” “The US Consumer Products Safety Commission provides the following information on formaldehyde on their web site: Formaldehyde is normally present at low levels, usually less than 0.03 ppm (parts per million) in both outdoor and indoor air. The outdoor air in rural areas has lower concentrations while urban areas have higher concentrations. Residences or offices that contain products that release formaldehyde to the air can have formaldehyde levels of greater than 0.03 ppm. Products that may add formaldehyde to the air include particleboard used as flooring underlayment, shelving, furniture and cabinets; MDF in cabinets and furniture; hardwood plywood wall panels, and urea-formaldehyde foam used as insulation. Similar levels are quoted in the World Health Organization (WHO) report WHO guidelines for indoor air quality selected pollutants, published in December 2010: This states for buildings, some of which contain wood based panels, levels on the average are less than 0.05 mg/m3 (0.04ppm) in homes and about half that in public buildings’. It is important to note that these levels are from all sources, not just building products”.[2]

How safe is the use of Formaldehyde?

All American made products have to conform to strict guidelines on the use of formaldehyde and other potentially toxic substances. American made products meet strict OSHA[3] guidelines for their use of formaldehyde in the work place and in your home. The Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association of North America[4] (KCMA) requires manufacturers to meet their strict standards to obtain the KCMA certification of their products. The California Air Resources Board[5] (CARB) has become the industry standard throughout the United States for the regulation of chemical products and by-products. All American made pressed wood products meet both of the above two certifications.

Products sold in the United States by countries outside of the United States are required to meet the same standards as American Manufactures. However, there is no way to enforce American standards upon foreign made products. This is where the consumer must do his or her own investigation of foreign made products.

OSHA recommends that a product produce .1 ppm (parts per million) or less of formaldehyde emission into the air[6]. Finished products produce the lowest amount of emissions. Exposures to higher concentrations of chemicals are typically found in the construction and forming of wood based products. OSHA protects workers from toxic air levels with set standards employers must abide by within the USA.

Placing products in a well ventilated area greatly reduces any exposure to chemical by-products used in household items. Formaldehyde does not accumulate in the human body but it can cause minor irritation to the sinus and eyes and may cause sinus related headaches or trigger asthma attacks[7].

What is formaldehyde free wood?

This is a marketing term for products that do not add additional formaldehyde to their wood pressed products. All their products still contain formaldehyde and still emit some formaldehyde into the air but at a lower rate.

What do I do?

The best thing is to ask questions when you buy your cabinets. Your dealer should have answers to your questions and will know what standards their products meet. Another way to reduce any emissions from wood products is to paint or seal the surface with an after manufacture product. Or the use of a Thermofoil[8] covering which can be done by the product manufacturer will help to seal the wood product from emissions. Thermofoil is a decorative application that helps to protect your wood finish from spills and minor scratches. Thermofoil itself has one drawback in that it is not heat resistant and cannot be used in areas near or above a stove.

If your project comes down cost, then imported kitchen cabinets are a great way to save money on your project. Imported products are as good as and sometimes better than American made products. Imported cabinets come with nearly all the same styles and features of high end cabinets. Finished products emit the lowest levels of post production by-products. Quality manufacturers throughout the world strive to meet the highest regulations for their products so they will be marketable on the world stage.









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