Formaldehyde is a pretty common chemical. It is present in various products inside our homes. Our wallpapers, textiles, vinyl and even toothpaste contain formaldehyde. The plywood that makes up your ceilings, walls and cabinets also contain formaldehyde, since plywood products are bonded using adhesives that contain the chemical.
A primary concern about formaldehyde is its reclassification by the World Health Organisation as a carcinogen. Should you be worried about formaldehyde in plywood then?
Read on and find out what you should know about formaldehyde in plywood.
What is formaldehyde?
Formaldehyde is a naturally-occurring organic compound. A colourless and strong-smelling gas, formaldehyde is naturally emitted by all timber species, as well as by processes like decay and combustion. It has become a very important ingredient in the production of industrial resins, including the adhesive that is used to bond plywood products.
All plywood products require a structural and moisture durability, and these are provided by the adhesive known as phenol formaldehyde. This adhesive is more commonly referred to as A Bond, which you can easily spot between the layers of ply as a distinct black line.
Why you should not worry about formaldehyde in plywood
With formaldehyde being classified as a chemical with cancer-causing properties, it is but natural for people to be concerned about formaldehyde in plywood. After all, formaldehyde emissions are to be expected in all plywood that has been bonded with a Phenol Formaldehyde adhesive.
There is, however, very little actual cause for concern.
Sure, formaldehyde emissions from plywood tend to be at their highest immediately after the manufacturing process. Within a few weeks, however, these formaldehyde emissions subside significantly. The application of a phenolic coating further reduces emission levels. By the time plywood products bonded with Phenol Formaldehyde reach your plywood supplier, their formaldehyde emissions will have become close to negligible.
It is very important to keep in mind that while formaldehyde may be carcinogenic, it only rears its ugly cancer-causing head when at very high concentrations. As stated earlier, formaldehyde emissions from plywood products are deemed very low. In fact, these emissions are so low that plywood products are exempt from formaldehyde emission regulations in Europe and in the United States.
What about formaldehyde in Australian plywood?
In Australia, there are two voluntary standards on formaldehyde in plywood that make sure, among other things, that plywood products have low formaldehyde emission levels:
AS/NZS 1859.1:2004: Reconstituted wood-based panels – Specifications – Particleboard AS/NZS 1859.2:2004: Reconstituted wood-based panels – Specifications – Dry-processed Fiberboard.
By these standards, pressed timber products must have formaldehyde levels of 1ppm in order to be categorised as a low-formaldehyde emission product.
With manufacturers following these standards faithfully, most dry particleboards and dry-processed fibreboards made in Australia are now low-formaldehyde emission products.
EWPAA formaldehyde testing and labelling
The safety of plywood products in Australia is further guaranteed by an industry-wide formaldehyde testing and labelling program spearheaded by the Engineered Wood Products Association of Australasia (EWPAA).
The program follows a strict protocol of requiring all EWPAA certified mills to regularly submit to its National Laboratory formaldehyde test samples for formaldehyde emission testing. Only then will they be allowed to label their products with the appropriate formaldehyde emission class based on the results of the laboratory
To read more about formaldehyde in plywood, visit the National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS) website here or contact us to source quality, safe plywood for your next construction project.