Wood & Emissions

Wood products, such as those used in cabinets, can emit low amounts of formaldehyde.

Formaldehyde, a naturally occurring chemical present in human breath, is widely used. It has been studied extensively and is typically encountered in the home in low levels. Like many other chemicals, if encountered in high levels, it can have negative health effects. Most people have no reaction to low-level formaldehyde emissions, but a small percentage of the population has acute sensitively to it and other chemicals.

All wood species, and therefore all wood products, contain and emit small amounts of formaldehyde. An oak tree, for example, emits 9 parts per billion (ppb) of formaldehyde. It follows that any wood cut from that oak tree also contains small amounts of formaldehyde, as do all wood products. Formaldehyde also is found naturally in a wide range of fruits, vegetables, mushrooms, seafood, meats and coffee.

All cabinetmakers use composite wood in the construction of cabinets. It is an essential material for industry products extending the yield from the harvest of trees, making cabinetry more affordable. Composite wood generally is made with small amounts of urea formaldehyde adhesives in order to achieve durability and performance expected by consumers in the difficult kitchen environment that varies exposure to extreme heat, cold, diverse cooking products (mustard, ketchup, alcohol, and the like), detergents, water and heavy usage.

Action to Manage Formaldehyde Exposure in the Home

If you are among those with known sensitivities to formaldehyde, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recommends that consumers do the following to prevent exposure to formaldehyde:

  1. Use lower-emitting pressed wood products, such as those that are labeled CARB (California Air Resources Board) compliant, or made with ultra-low-emitting formaldehyde (ULEF) or no-added formaldehyde (NAF). Cabinets displaying the KCMA Environmental Stewardship Program (ESP) certification seal are required to use 100% CARB compliant pressed wood. The CARB product emission standards are the lowest in the world.
  2. Increase ventilation, particularly after bringing new sources of formaldehyde into the home. Open windows and use fans to bring in fresh air. The kitchen and bath generally already are the best ventilated rooms in a house with frequent air exchanges the norm.
  3. Use air conditioning and dehumidifiers to maintain moderate temperature and reduce humidity levels.
  4. Studies have shown that readily available laminated products are among the lowest emitters of formaldehyde.

In 2013, ABT Systems, LLC conducted research on ventilation and concluded that the kitchen and bath are the best ventilated rooms in a residential dwelling which should relieve indoor air concerns for those rooms.  Click here for ABT Systems LLC Research on ventilation.

10 Best Houseplants to De-Stress Your Home & Purify the Air-- 4/1/13 Article in Huffington Post

KCMA ESP certified cabinetry meet the HHS guidelines for managing formaldehyde exposure. A recent study of formaldehyde by the National Academy of Sciences stated that the emission levels to which most consumers would be exposed are well below thresholds that would cause harm. This would include ESP certified cabinets.
Click here for a FACT SHEET on FORMALDEHYDE IN CABINETS
Formaldehyde: Contributing to a Sustainable Future for Wood Products