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Zero-VOC Solutions for Healthy Homes Are Here, and They Are Grown From the Earth Non-added formaldehyde, zero-VOC solutions are here today in wood composite products, and the enabling technology is bio-based
effects that appear to be linked to time spent in a building. Chemical contaminants from indoor sources are one of the leading causes, and studies have shown adhesives, carpeting, upholstery, manufactured wood products, copy machines, pesticides and cleaning agents may emit contaminants, including formaldehyde, within the building. As a result, paint products are now widely marketed in low- or zero-VOC offerings and command a significant market share and a large amount of advertising resources.
was invented in 1938, the investments in R&D paid off, and as of October 2015, every plant in the USA and Canada now produces a nonadded formaldehyde product. Formaldehyde Emissions from Residential Fiberglass Insulation Factories in USA & Canada 600,000 2005 POUNDS PER YEAR
hen thinking about construction, it’s easy to envision large wood sheets or lumber in a raw state used by contractors in the construction of new homes. Less so, do we consider the myriad of interior home goods we use every day that are built from engineered wood products? Reading any home décor magazine, articles are populated with happy people surrounded by their favorite home furnishings. From hosting a dinner party in a newly renovated kitchen, to playing with their pets on new wood floors, or putting their kids to bed in a new bedroom set, the images portray daily activities where we are in close interaction with the materials around us.
2008 2009 2010
3 – HEALTHY BUILDING NETWORK, 2015
What’s interesting to note is that this change was not government mandated. Jim Vallette, research director of the Healthy Building Network, summarized it pointedly, saying: “A well-informed marketplace, not federal or state environmental regulation, drove this change.” NON-ADDED FORMALDEHYDE IN WOOD COMPOSITES
2 – ZERO VOC PAINT ADVERTISEMENT, HOME DEPOT
1 – TYPICAL HOME DECOR ADVERTISEMENT, 2018 IKEA CATALOG
The chemical composition of these materials, in recent years especially, has come to the forefront of public consciousness as we have learned that many of the most common materials found in our homes can be emitting toxic levels of VOCs. These VOCs are causing what the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) calls Sick Building Syndrome (SBS). SBS is used to describe situations in which building occupants experience acute health and comfort 54
Less noticeable, but still present nonetheless, has been the change in VOCs on insulating products for our homes. In 1980, Canada banned the use of UFFI (urea-formaldehyde foam insulation). Over the past 40 years, allowable formaldehyde emission levels have steadily decreased, and today, Health Canada’s residential indoor air quality guidelines recommend a long-term exposure limit for formaldehyde of 0.04 ppm. In response, the fiberglass insulation industry has made significant strides in developing non-added formaldehyde (NAF) binding systems. After relying on old technology that
So why have wood composite products not quite followed the zero-VOC trend? The California Air Resources Board (CARB) has put out stringent standards for retailing wood composite products, limiting formaldehyde emission levels to 0.05ppm. It’s notable that these levels are still above Health Canada’s recommended limits on residential indoor exposure. One reason has been the lack of viable binders, other than formaldehyde-based resins, that can bring acceptable performance in the manufacturing of panels. The OSB industry has experienced the largest shift away from formaldehyde-based binders toward the use of polymeric MDI (pMDI). PMDI brings significant board strength and moisture resistance improvements, while also being a non-added formaldehyde solution. In the OSB market, pMDI resin is now the binder of choice for over 50 percent of panels manufactured.