Monday, January 21, 2008

New Furniture Dangers

Recently we purchased some new furniture. We knew about the dangers of formaldehyde in particle board etc but it was next to impossible to find things without it, unless we wanted to spend tons of money, which we didn't. Right after setting up the new bookcases, Emery started coughing a lot, we couldn't figure out why, until we put a time stamp on when it started, the very same day we set up the bookcases that are made out of particle board. They are coming down, and Emery will be making some nice wooden ones to take their place. Think it might be best to stick with antiques !
The photo shows the underside of the bookcase shelf, particle board !

Hidden Danger of Particle Board Formaldehyde in Manufactured Wood Products

By Lauren Beyenhof
Formaldehyde is a colorless gas with a strong odor known to cause asthma attacks
Persons with compromised health may be more sensitive to lower concentrations of formaldehyde than others
Two coats of sealant or varnish on the underside of cabinets prevent formaldehyde emissions
Persons with asthma, allergies, chronic sinusitis or similar upper respiratory problems are well attuned to the specific environmental triggers that cause their conditions to flare up. In order to make life as symptom-free as possible, they go to great lengths to purchase the proper allergen reducing products, adhere to medication schedules, and avoid situations that may compromise their lung function. Unfortunately, even the most diligent may overlook the danger that resides in nearly every home.
Particle board, wood veneer, hardwood plywood and similar products are home to an oft-ignored source of indoor air pollution, (i.e. formaldehyde) and are therefore a potential health risk. It is important to note that these wood products are not the problem; rather, it is the combination of certain adhesives used in the manufacturing of the particle board that causes the true pollutant, formaldehyde, to surface.
The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) reports that manufactured wood products such as plywood and composite board pose the same risk as particle board. Formaldehyde is commonly used in these manufactured wood products because of its preservative and adhesive properties.
Because formaldehyde is a type of volatile organic compound (VOC), it is readily emitted into the air. However, not everyone is affected by it in the same way. Only sensitive populations, such as those with compromised respiratory function due to asthma or allergies, are likely to experience the direst reactions to formaldehyde exposure. For example, exposure to high concentrations is likely to trigger asthma attacks in some people, whereas the same degree of exposure will have no adverse affect on an otherwise healthy individual.
Formaldehyde in its gaseous form is colorless and odorless. It is a lachrymator, meaning it causes irritates the eyes, nose and throat, causing itchiness and sometimes moist discharge. Additional symptoms of exposure may include dizziness, nausea, headache, and perhaps of most concern to the asthmatic, upper respiratory irritation.
In the scientific laboratory setting, prolonged or frequent exposure of animals to formaldehyde in any form has been linked to cancer, but this does not necessarily ring true in humans. Regardless, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) considers formaldehyde a "probable human carcinogen."
Notable items in the home containing particle board include bookshelves or entertainment units requiring assembly. Medium density fiberboard is another significant source of formaldehyde in the home, as are hardwood plywood, paneling and some floor finishes. In some cases, removing the source of formaldehyde may not completely eliminate the chance of further exposure. Depending on the temperature and humidity, emissions and concentration levels may fluctuate. For the most part, the most destructive of these products have been successfully removed from the market and are no longer available.
Completely eliminating all manufactured wood products from the home is not an economically feasible or practical approach, but there are some ways to reduce the likelihood of over-exposure and prevent adverse health effects. Replacing the existing particle board with softwood plywood or wafer board can be done with little expense and effort. Areas under cabinets or drawers where manufactured wood is exposed can be sealed with two coats of laminate or varnish, which is impenetrable to formaldehyde.
Although no home can be completely allergen or pollutant-free, simple, manageable steps can be taken to ensure that the home is a place of comfort and overall safety. For persons with asthma and similar health concerns, effectively reducing exposure to formaldehyde in the home is well worth the


Marianna said...

When I was in my early 20's my parents helped my brother and I purchase a mobile home to live in while we finished school so that we would be immune to constantly rising rental rates. Anyway, shortly after moving in I started having severe respiratory problems, breaking out in hives and near constant headaches. This went on for the entire first year we lived there. At the time I wasn't aware of the problems with off-gassing. When I first read an article about it a little light bulb went off. To this day I try to avoid anything that would off-gas. I now worry about what the long-term consequences might be...

pomo housewife said...

thanks for this reminder. I was thinking about buying a cheap bookshelf that a local store has on sale... I'd forgotten about Formaldehyde. Off to the secondhand store instead. Failing that, some bricks and pine boards make a very stylish shelf!

Sky said...

thanks so much for sharing this. i had no idea! i have bronchial asthma and right now am sick with another upper respiratory infection, my 2nd since december 19th. the wheezing is horrible and scary. i will pay close attention to this and to everything new we bring into our home.

glad you stopped by today and left a comment. both of your blogs have been a nice treat for me this afternoon. please tell me about the trees in your header. they are gorgeous!

Carrie said...

Thanks for this very useful information. I always enjoy solid wood - the way it looks, the way it feels and its sturdiness. The low price of the particle board is really tempting, but this information shows that it is not worth the cost to your health.

nancyr said...

I have a friend who had the same problem.

Besides the health ramifications, particleboard just doesn't hold up, and is not worth the money, even at a low price.
You can find solid wood furniture very inexpensively, used, especially if it is not antique.
The beauty of solid wood is timeless.

Much To Catch Up....

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