Formaldehyde and VOCs

What is Formaldehyde?
Formaldehyde is an organic chemical commonly used in many applications – from industrial disinfectants to certain kinds of fabric. Formaldehyde is also commonly found in the adhesives used to make engineered and laminate flooring. These adhesives will off- gas trace amounts of free formaldehyde into the air in decreasing concentrations over time. Is this worrisome to have formaldehyde off-gassing into the air in your home? It depends on the concentration. Formaldehyde is a naturally occurring substance, produced in small amounts by most living organisms. For this reason no wood product can truly be called formaldehyde free. Exposure to formaldehyde in higher concentrations may cause certain irritations such as sore throat, cough, scratchy eyes and nosebleeds. More worrisome is the fact that exposure formaldehyde has been shown to cause cancer. For this reason formaldehyde emissions from flooring products are strictly regulated. Flooring products must meet the E1 standard for formaldehyde emissions, at a minimum, to be legal for sale in Canada.

Different resin systems produce levels of formaldehyde emissions. Urea-formaldehyde resin systems are commonly used in the high density fiberboard (HDF) cores used for laminate flooring. Urea-formaldehyde resin is relatively inexpensive, but emits more free formaldehyde than other resin systems. In order to achieve the E1 standard for formaldehyde emissions manufacturers must add chemicals that bind the formaldehyde in the HDF; and ensure that their manufacturing process are carefully controlled. So, it costs a little more to make laminate floors that qualify as E1. Obviously this is a worthwhile expenditure. Engineered hardwood floors are commonly manufactured using a phenol-formaldehyde resin system. This particular technology emits far less free formaldehyde than the urea system. As such, engineered flooring producers usually have no trouble passing the E1 certification without any extraordinary measures.

What is a VOC?
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are organic chemicals that become gasses very easily at room temperature. Formaldehyde is one type of VOC, but there are many others. Limiting emissions of total volatile organic compounds (TVOCs), as well as excessive emissions of any one type of VOC, is generally considered to be important to maintaining good indoor air quality.

VOCs are an important issue in the finishing industry. Major manufacturers in that sector have spent quite a bit of time researching how to minimize the effects of chemicals off- gassing while finishes are applied. The finishes we apply to our solid and engineered hardwood rely on a special technology that uses UV light to cure the coating after it is applied. UV light transforms the liquid coating to a solid polyurethane surface almost instantly. This particular process ensures that, in your home or building, no VOCs are emitted by our topcoat. UV finishing processes are also very good at minimizing VOCs emitted during the factory application process.

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