Formaldehyde is used in the manufacturing of pressed wood products
such as particle board. This formaldehyde is released as gas into the
air from products that are made with it. This is called ?outgassing?.
According to most references, most of the outgassing occurs in the
first year. However, data shows that outgassing continues for at
least 5 years. Possibly up to 10 years or more.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
Chemicals, the Environment, and You
?Formaldehyde is a chemical used in the manufacturing of pressed wood
products, as a component of glues and adhesives, and for adding
permanent press qualities to fabrics. Formaldehyde is released as gas
into the air from new products that are made with it, such as carpet,
carpet adhesives, fabrics, and plywood. This ?outgassing? is greatest
when the product is new and gradually decreases as the product ages
until it no longer occurs. High heat and humidity increase the rate at
which formaldehyde is released and shorten the time during which the
odor of formaldehyde gas is noticeable.
A person exposed to high levels of formaldehyde in the air can have
watery eyes, burning sensations in the eyes and throat, nausea, and
difficulty breathing. High concentrations sometimes trigger attacks in
people with asthma. New products made for homes, autos, and buses do
not release high amounts of formaldehyde.
To minimize exposure to formaldehyde, people can ventilate areas that
contain new products that emit formaldehyde. They can choose to use
wood products that are not pressed wood, but should weigh their worry
about formaldehyde against the fact that the use of pressed wood
conserves more natural resources. They can request low-emitting
adhesives for carpets.?
Long-term study of formaldehyde emission decay from particleboard
?1. Formaldehyde emission levels from particleboard can be espected to
decrease over time.
2. The rate at which emission levels decrease is not constant, but
diminishes with time. On average, the 16 samples in this study
decreased from their initial emission levels by 25 percent in just-38
days. Fourteen samples, tested long enough to reach a half life, took
an average of 216 days to reach the 50 percent emission level.
3. Generally, formaldehyde emission levels decreased linearly with
respect to the natural log of time.
4. Decay of panel emission levels with respect to time of these medium
density particleboards was strongly related to the initial emission
leve The higher the initial emission level the greater the initial
rate of decay.?
University of Minnesota
Indoor Air Pollution: An Evaluation Of Three Agents
See Figure 2 ?Time-dependent changes in formaldehyde levels associated
with 6 grades of particleboards (5).?
(Approximately halfway down the page.)
Figure 2 shows that the formaldehyde levels drop off significantly in
the first 15 months and continue to drop off gradually through 62
months. However, the levels have not dropped to zero at 62 months.
Earth Friendly Products
Reduce Indoor Air Pollution
?Furniture made of plywood, particleboard, pressed wood or medium
density fiberboard is treated with formaldehyde, which may emit fumes
for up to 5 years.?
Chemistry Class, by Penny Bonda, FASID
?Formaldehyde, the most widely known of a group of substances known as
volatile organic compounds (VOCs) is both naturally occurring and
man-made and is found in a variety of consumer products such as molded
plastic items, particle board, plywood, paper, sealants, paints,
textiles, foam mattresses, building insulation and upholstery
stuffing. Many of these items will emit appreciable amounts of the
stuff for five or more years after manufacture. Worse yet, the
evaporating fumes will tend to be absorbed and then re-released by
large interior surfaces such as ceiling tiles, wall board and
carpeting. Formaldehyde has been classified as a potential human
carcinogen by the EPA.?
NIRVANA SAFE HAVEN
?Most homes and offices have measurable formaldehyde levels using
conventional particle board sub flooring, wall boards and carpets. Two
to five years after installation, two to three times the acceptable
limit of formaldehyde can be measure in the air . Formaldehyde is in
pressed wood products, particleboard, plywood, medium-density
fiberboard and paneling used in furniture manufacturing, new home
construction, remodeling and renovation, and mobile home construction.
Insulation of formaldehyde, Urea-formaldehyde foam insulation (UFFI)
was a big source of contamination in the past. Formaldehyde products
usually only emit vapors for 7 to 8 years. The emissions are most
detrimental during the first few 365 days and the intensity gradually
eases up over the next 7 to 8 years.?
Independent Living Research Utilization (ILRU)
Understanding & Accommodating People with Multiple Chemical
Sensitivity in Independent Living
by Pamela Reed Gibson, Ph.D.
James Madison University
?Formaldehyde impregnated building materials such as particle board
emit considerable formaldehyde particularly in their first year and
continue to outgas for ten or more years.?
Regarding furniture made with glued wood strips, I believe it is
likely that the adhesive used is formaldehyde based since these types
of adhesives appear to be very common in the manufacture of wood
Adhesives in the Furniture Industry
?UREA FORMALDEHYDE ADHESIVES (UF)
Urea formaldehyde is a thermosetting material resulting from the
chemical reaction between urea and formaldehyde under acidic
conditions. The reaction is accelerated by heat but, once completed,
continued heating within limits has no further affect on the material
- hence its good heat resistance. It also has reasonable moisture
resistance and these two properties, combined with good adhesion to
wood and wood-based materials, as well as low cost, has ensured its
Chapter 10: Wood based Composites and Panel Products
?Urea-formaldehyde (UF) resins are typically used in the manufacture
of products where dimensional uniformity and surface smoothness are of
primary concern, for example, particleboard and MDF. Products
manufactured with UFresins are designed for interior applications.
They can be formulated to cure anywhere from room temperature to
150°C(300°F); press times and temperatures can be moderated
accordingly. Urea-formaldehyde resins (often referred to asurea
resins) are more economical than PF resins and are the most widely
used adhesive for composite wood products. The inherently light color
of UF resins make them quite suitable for the manufacture of
United States Environmental Protection Agency
Sources of Indoor Air Pollution - Formaldehyde
An Update On Formaldehyde
U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission
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