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Products / Formaldehyde and how it affects your family
Byline: JOHN D. WAGNER
New formaldehyde regulations are headed your way
If you think that the focus on the health risks of formaldehyde is for sissies, I beg you to reconsider. Formaldehyde is a "probable human carcinogen," according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Besides being a carcinogen, formaldehyde is also a volatile organic compound, or VOC. A VOC product is volatile because it evaporates at room temperature, and organic because it's carbon-based. For example, gasoline is a VOC because it's a hydrocarbon and evaporates if you set it out in open air.
Formaldehyde is widely used in glues and adhesives; it's a preservative in paints and finishes, too. It's also found in products like insulation, cabinets and furniture. When formaldehyde reacts with phenol, urea or melamine, it produces phenol-formaldehyde resins (PF), urea-formaldehyde resin (UF) or melamine resin. PF "phenolic" resin emits less formaldehyde than UF "urea" resin. Products are labeled "urea-formaldehyde-free," implying it's the lesser of two evils. Also, some insulation products contain formaldehyde in the binder that holds the glass fiber together, but the formaldehyde is mostly locked in and will not off-gas at harmful levels. The new federal Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Act effectively sets national emission standards at 0.09 PPM by Jan. 1, 2013. You will first see this take effect in plywood, particleboard, and MDF.