Is my home safe from formaldeyhde gas?

Making a home a greener environment can be a challenge to your family, your community and the world. Home owners want to stay ahead and become well educated in the latest developments for maintaining a safe and healthy environment for your family.  Recently, the State of California became the first (and to date only) state to enact legislation limiting the off gas emission of formaldehyde and other harmful gases in laminate and  engineered wood flooring products, moldings, plywood underlayment, and other composite wood panel products.  According to California state officials  “In April 2007, the California Air Resources Board (CARB), a department of the California Environmental Protection Agency, voted to implement new limits for formaldehyde emitted from composite wood products. These new limits will be implemented in two phases starting January 1, 2009 and the final limits will be in place by 2012”.  This legislation will effect the sale of flooring and other products in California and hopefully have a beneficial environmental effect on the 60 billion dollar flooring industry in United States by bringing the awareness of toxic gases in flooring products to the general public.

Prior to this new legislation the Composite Panel Association developed voluntary emission standards for the industry (for carpeting the www.carpet-rug.org sets the standards). According to the Composite Panel Association web sitewww.pbmdf.com their general members include “40 of the leading manufacturers of particleboard, medium density fiberboard and hardboard.  Together they represent nearly 95% of the total manufacturing capacity in US, Canada and Mexico.  This Association certifies product to meet the Composite Panel Association’s (voluntary) Environmentally Preferable Product (EPP) requirements.   The chart below outlines a comparison of formaldehyde standards used in Europe, Japan and the United States.

Comparison of Worldwide Formaldehyde Standards for Composites (using equivalent U.S. large chamber test values)
Standard European E1 Japanese F★★★ Japanese F★★★★ CPA EPP CARB Phase I (2009) CARB Phase II (2011)
Maximum Emission Level (ppm) 0.14 0.09* 0.05* 0.20 0.18 (PB)0.21 (MDF) 0.09 (PB)0.11 (MDF)

Source: Composite Panel Association

From these results you will note that the CPA EPP standard is .20 and the new California standard is .18. While this is significant, present levels are still four times higher than the Japanese F4 standard of .05. In Europe their E1 emission standard has been in effect since 2004 and according to experts are moving to the more demanding E0 standard. It is also interesting to note that a great deal of the laminate and engineered wood flooring manufactured in China is certified to be E1 or better by independent third party laboratories. However the State of California has taken a positive step towards a safer environment on the home and hopefully other states will follow in the near future.  For flooring buyers to be certain that the product is safe and environmentally friendly they should: –

1. . Look for the E1 or E0 certification stamp on wood engineered and laminate flooring products. Another alternative is to look for lower grade CPA EPP stamp on similar products.

2.    In California look for product indicating that CARB or an accredited third party has certified the flooring product. For detailed information about the California formaldehyde regulation, visit CARB’s website or contact the Composite Panel Association (CPA) at http://www.arb.ca.gov/toxics/compwood/compwood.htm

In addition to these alternatives, Peter Rundle, the editor at GreenerFlooring.com suggests looking for non-formaldehyde or non-urea-formaldehyde binders, for low VOC adhesives (to adhere products to the floor), or better still choose floating options.

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