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Lowdown on Emission Levels

Do emissions from modern building products manufactured with formaldehyde-based resins pose a health risk? No. In fact, emission levels from today’s wood products are far below levels of concern. Here are some facts to keep in mind.

Fact #1: Formaldehyde occurs naturally, and it’s all around us.

Humans, plants and animals produce it as a normal part of living. We’re exposed to it everyday as a by-product of automobile combustion, tobacco smoke, cooking, fireplaces, even our own breathing. Our bodies readily break down the low levels of formaldehyde to which we are normally exposed.

Fact #2: All wood species – and therefore all wood products – contain and emit small amounts of formaldehyde.

The average oak tree, for instance, emits 0.009 parts per million (ppm) of formaldehyde. By itself, this is a very low quantity, but densely wooded areas can have much higher concentrations. It’s important to note that wood products touted as “formaldehyde-free” do, in fact, contain and emit small amounts of formaldehyde.

Fact #3: Formaldehyde is normally present at low levels in both outdoor and indoor air, well below levels that might affect human health.

Current indoor air quality studies report that, on average, only very low levels of formaldehyde (less than 0.045 ppm) are present in the typical new home featuring modern building materials. Levels dissipate to nearly “background” levels within a short period of time. Formaldehyde levels found in a typical home or office building are significantly less – an order of magnitude lower – than the levels at which we can smell or notice any irritating effects from formaldehyde.

Fact #4: Hexion and other resin producers have improved resin technologies and reduced indoor air formaldehyde levels attributable to building products by 80 to 90 percent since the early 1980s.

These levels now approach ambient (normal) background levels, are well below strict government standards, and simply do not pose a threat.

Fact #5: Numerous government agencies, whose missions are to protect people, have put standards in place which today’s wood products meet or exceed.

These include the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CSPC), the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) , and state regulators

Fact #6: Painting, laminating or coating wood products reduces emissions from wood products to almost zero.

When cabinetry, furniture, trim or paneling is painted, stained, laminated or otherwise coated – as most materials are – they emit almost no formaldehyde.

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