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Green Products and the Economy

  1. Aug 1, 2009 #1
    I am a cabinet maker, and recently, I have had a lot of demand for E0, as they learn that Formaldehyde emissions from many building products are hazardous to your health.

    "Sources of Formaldehyde

    Pressed wood products (hardwood plywood wall paneling, particleboard, fiberboard) and furniture made with these pressed wood products. Urea-formaldehyde foam insulation (UFFI). Combustion sources and environmental tobacco smoke. Durable press drapes, other textiles, and glues.

    Proposed Rulemaking
    Formaldehyde Emissions from Pressed Wood Products
    EPA's Office of Prevention, Pesticides & Toxic Substances has launched an investigation of the potential health risks with formaldehyde emissions from pressed wood products. Read More
    Health Effects

    Formaldehyde, a colorless, pungent-smelling gas, can cause watery eyes, burning sensations in the eyes and throat, nausea, and difficulty in breathing in some humans exposed at elevated levels (above 0.1 parts per million). High concentrations may trigger attacks in people with asthma. There is evidence that some people can develop a sensitivity to formaldehyde. It has also been shown to cause cancer in animals and may cause cancer in humans. Health effects include eye, nose, and throat irritation; wheezing and coughing; fatigue; skin rash; severe allergic reactions. May cause cancer. May also cause other effects listed under "organic gases."

    EPA's Integrated Risk Information System profile on Formaldehyde: www.epa.gov/iris/subst/0419.htm
    Levels in Homes

    Average concentrations in older homes without UFFI are generally well below 0.1 (ppm). In homes with significant amounts of new pressed wood products, levels can be greater than 0.3 ppm.

    Steps to Reduce Exposure

    Use "exterior-grade" pressed wood products (lower-emitting because they contain phenol resins, not urea resins).
    Use air conditioning and dehumidifiers to maintain moderate temperature and reduce humidity levels.
    Increase ventilation, particularly after bringing new sources of formaldehyde into the home.
    Ask about the formaldehyde content of pressed wood products, including building materials, cabinetry, and furniture before you purchase them.

    If you experience adverse reactions to formaldehyde, you may want to avoid the use of pressed wood products and other formaldehyde-emitting goods. Even if you do not experience such reactions, you may wish to reduce your exposure as much as possible by purchasing exterior-grade products, which emit less formaldehyde.

    For further information on formaldehyde and consumer products, call the EPA Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) assistance line (202) 554-1404
    Some studies suggest that coating pressed wood products with polyurethane may reduce formaldehyde emissions for some period of time. To be effective, any such coating must cover all surfaces and edges and remain intact. Increase the ventilation and carefully follow the manufacturer instructions while applying these coatings. (If you are sensitive to formaldehyde, check the label contents before purchasing coating products to avoid buying products that contain formaldehyde, as they will emit the chemical for a short time after application.)

    Maintain moderate temperature and humidity levels and provide adequate ventilation.

    The rate at which formaldehyde is released is accelerated by heat and may also depend somewhat on the humidity level. Therefore, the use of dehumidifiers and air conditioning to control humidity and to maintain a moderate temperature can help reduce formaldehyde emissions. (Drain and clean dehumidifier collection trays frequently so that they do not become a breeding ground for microorganisms.) Increasing the rate of ventilation in your home will also help in reducing formaldehyde levels."


    Anyways, I just wanted to use Formaldehyde as an example, as there are many products out there that are hazardous to our health. Basically, I don't understand why these products aren't banned when they are discovered to be toxic? And I know it is because of pressure from people who make the toxic stuff.

    But anyways, I would think that if you did something like mandate that all building materials are E0 grade, no Formaldehyde emissions, and made the public aware of the health hazards of Formaldehyde, an emerging market of E0 building materials would boost the economy. The same with all materials.

    Does anyone think that there is a legitimate reason not to ban things like Formaldehyde urea glue etc. Does anyone think that we have to live with these toxins and just try to limit exposure so that industry is healthy?
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 1, 2009 #2


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    Staff: Mentor

    According to your links -

    This appears to have been solved in 1985.

    So, the practice was stopped 24 years ago.
  4. Aug 1, 2009 #3
    It is very hard to find E0 ply-woods or particle board, and it is very expensive. They only limited the amount of formaldehyde emission used in "prefabricated, and manufactured homes", which was out of control.

    My proposal is that http://www.epa.gov/iaq/formalde.html
    , which off-gasses formaldehyde, be banned in the use of interior products all together. Why not, there are other glues like PVA's which could take it's place.

    "In homes with significant amounts of new pressed wood products, levels can be greater than 0.3 ppm."


    There is no good reason why E0 products should be so expensive and hard to find, except that they are rare. They are rare because you can save a few cents on the dollar using U.F. adhesive. As a result, business people are forced to use these materials to compete. Which is also a moral dilemma. I don't feel good selling things which off-gas formaldehyde.
    Even a low emitting product can be bad when your whole house is filled with the stuff. From your floors, to your walls, to your cabinets, counter tops, and furniture.

    And as it relates to the economy, why not mandate that people making so much per year, who have children, replace their floors, furniture etc, with E0 stuff. An economic stimulus, potential for a savings in health care, and a better quality of life for millions of people.
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2009
  5. Aug 1, 2009 #4


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    Staff: Mentor

    How do metal or synthetic materials compare price wise, or cheap woods such as pine? My parents had an ultra-modern "house of the future" back in the 50's. It was a steel framed house with all brick exterior and the kitchen cabinets were metal.

    I am all for the concrete homes. In countries like Italy, it is the norm, wood frame homes, I believe, aren't even allowed due to fire codes. Concrete homes are starting to gain popularity in the US. I would love a concrete home. As far as cabinets, I would go with a fabricated material such (synthetic) for cabinets or real wood. It's a one time cost, not something worth cutting corners on, there just aren't that many cupboards in a house.
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2009
  6. Aug 1, 2009 #5
    Metal cabinets would be cool.

    It is really just a lot easier and less time consuming to use sheets of plywood or particle board for certain things. Mostly because it comes in wide sheets. For example, the backing. You want it to be enclosed so pests don't get in. Nobody sees the back panel of a cabinet. If you use pine, and and want the cabinet enclosed, you would need to glue multiple boards together to make solid wood panel. So you would have to spend the time machining the boards to precise measurements, gluing and clamping sanding, and then you have your solid panel.

    Most people are looking for the best bang for the buck, and they can get something made mostly out of particle board on the inside, with the look of high quality hard wood on the outside. It is hard to rationalize paying more for things you don't really even see.
  7. Aug 3, 2009 #6


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    Staff Emeritus
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    Gold Member

    I wonder if after the dot-com bubble, and the real estate bubble, we will now have a Green bubble ?
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