Apr 14, 2010

your furniture can make you sick

If you are one of our long time blog readers, you know that we go on and on about the dangers of formaldehyde, a volatile organic compound found in a great number of everyday things ranging from furniture to clothing to cosmetics. Formaldehyde is classified as a carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of the World Health Organization.

Here's a bit of good news relating to furniture (we must still fight the battle to get formaldehyde regulations for the garment and cosmetic industries):  a bill signed late last year would reduce indoor emissions of formaldehyde, as used in adhesives found in domestic and imported composite wood products. The standard for formaldehyde proposed in the bill would apply to particleboard, plywood and medium-density fiberboard, all commonly used materials in household furniture. Formaldehyde-based adhesives have been a component of composite wood products for decades and are considered cost-effective by manufacturers.

The Wall Street Journal reported on its Kicking Formaldehyde Out of Bed article that formaldehyde vaporizes and turns into gas at room temperature. Pressed-wood products made with formaldehyde can off-gas, or release gas into the air. Off-gassing has become more of a concern because some energy-efficient homes may provide less ventilation. In homes with less ventilation, consumers could be breathing in more concentrated amounts of toxic substances.

"Currently, there is no federal standard for formaldehyde emissions in most homes. The Department of Housing and Urban Development has set limits on formaldehyde in plywood and particleboard, but they apply specifically to materials used to build prefabricated and mobile homes. Under the proposed legislation, composite wood products sold in the U.S. would have to meet formaldehyde-emission standards of about 0.09 parts per million by January 2012, matching standards recently adopted by California."

Furniture manufacturers are already expecting furniture prices to go up due to the proposed bill. Manufacturers will be forced to use more expensive adhesives (free of the dangerous chemicals) in the making of their goods . So let's all expect to pay more for our furniture. I'll gladly pay more, as long as I know that my furniture is not hurting my health.

The Kicking Formaldehyde Out of Bed article featured Ecotots:
The manufacturer of Ecotots beds (like the one above) says they are made without formaldehyde.

1 comment:

  1. "I'll gladly pay more, as long as I know that my furniture is not hurting my health."

    PLEASE look into the CARB regulation that is the basis for the proposed Federal regulation. Nothing in CARB is designed to protecty your health.

    First, CARB itself states that the CARB regulation was designed for commerical applications and should NOT be used for residential settings.

    Second, since CARB was written the recommended maximium chronic exposure to formaldehyde has been reduced by a factor of 4, from 27 ppb (parts per billion) to 7 ppb.

    Third, CARB assumes 73 degrees. Formaldehyde roughly doubles for every ten degrees increase in temperature. IF something were in fact safe at 73 degrees it could become unsafe as the temperature increases. A 83 degree summer day doubles formaldehyde, a factor of four and 103 a factor of 8.

    Fourth, CARB is designed for building materials not furniture. It allows each componet to produce 1/2 half the old standard or double the current standard. But homes themselves have multiple componets (flooring, cabinets, doors, molding, stairs etc.)

    Fifth, CARB doesn't regulate formaldehyde releasing products such as fiberglass wall insultation, fuzzy hangers, yoga mats etc because they are not wooden products.

    The reason industry is supported CARB and supporting the proposed Federal legislation is because it does NOT protect consumer's health in their homes.

    You just have to read half of one sentence of The California Air Resources Board's (CARB) report published December 15, 2009:
    "Nearly all homes (98%) had formaldehyde concentrations that exceeded guidelines for cancer and chronic irritation..."

    Homes ARE making occupants sick. I have visited many homes where there was elevated formaldehyde. After following recommendations that included moving furniture out of bedrooms, sealing unfinished wooden surfaces, and/or increasing ventilation nearly all the residents reported significant improvement in their health. Many parents reported that their children were now completely off the asthma meds and inhalers without a single relapse.

    CARB only regulates the rate material can off gassing. The formaldehyde concentration in a room will depend on temperature, ventilation rate, amount of off gassing material in addition to the rate. Without regulating all four items the regulation is pointless.

    PLEASE do your homework before claiming that the proposed Federal legislation will protect anyone's health. If you do, you will learn that your statment is unfortunately not accurate.


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