General Construction 242 views Oct 30, 2017
Reducing added formaldehyde in panel products

Formaldehyde is a naturally occurring compound found in all organic substances but its presence in pressed timber products such as MDF has long been a contentious issue within the industry. With the increased focus on the importance of minimising risks to health in construction, manufacturers should go beyond the call of duty in reducing added formaldehyde in products.

The timber panel products industry has made investments to drive change in this area and ensure that there are products available which reduce added formaldehyde in adhesives to zero. Specifiers are now able to make a strong contribution to reducing the associated health issues which formaldehyde can cause.

There are rightly growing health concerns around formaldehyde, which is commonly found in the resins used to glue timber panel products together for strength performance. According to the HSE formaldehyde dust released in manufacture has the potential to lead to asthma and other respiratory problems, although there is no formal evidential link has been made between these issues and wood-based panels.

High humidity, heat or sawing or grinding can lead to increased levels of formaldehyde vapour and dust in the air breathed in by workers. The release of formaldehyde as vapour, which can cause irritation, is highest in newly manufactured pressed wood products and decreases over time.

The EU has taken steps to address the perceived risks by making all panel products conform to its already well established E1 classification on formaldehyde within EN 13986, meaning wood flooring adhesives have to have less than 0.75 ppm (parts per million) of formaldehyde.  The good news is that HSE states that the levels of so-called free formaldehyde in boards made to class E1 are “insignificant”, due to the resin having altered to form longer molecule chains during manufacture.  This means E1 boards have a negligible amount of formaldehyde present which can be breathed in during production, installation or use.

So what does this all mean for a manufacturer? With a consistent commitment to research and development as the leader in the MDF market, Medite has long been at the forefront of reducing formaldehyde emission levels of panel products. We chose to go beyond the regulatory requirements to help protect everyone in the supply chain as well as end users. All of our products not only surpass the European E1 classification by some distance, they also meet the world’s most stringent formaldehyde emission control standard for our product category CARB2 (granted by the Californian Air Resource Board).

But is there more that we can do? For customers wanting to ensure the absolute avoidance of added formaldehyde for interior applications requiring a zero tolerance approach, we developed Medite Ecologique. This unique FSC-certified product is manufactured using a zero added formaldehyde resin system. While manufacturers are complying with European standards as required to in order to market their products, we have gone to the next level in to actively mitigate the potential problems caused by added formaldehyde across our product ranges.

As a responsible manufacturer we have worked hard to ensure that we have reduced added formaldehyde across all of our ranges. However the ultimate goal is to reduce it to zero and with Medite Ecologique we have achieved that, giving specifiers with stringent sustainability and health requirements the ability to choose the most environmentally sensitive option available for their project.