Check out KCMA's recent column in the June issue of Kitchen & Bath Design News.
How to Answer Your Clients’ Questions About Formaldehyde
Formaldehyde is a topic that has been in and out of the news over decades causing concern among homeowners. The Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association has done a lot of work to ensure that there is accurate information available to the consumer on the potential human health impacts of exposure to this chemical. We have worked closely over the years with the Environmental Protection Agency providing input on regulations including the recent Formaldehyde Emission Standards for Composite Wood Products Rule in an effort to ensure it had both consumers’ and manufacturers’ best interests in mind. We understand that a healthy home is important to consumers and is therefore important to our members. In fact, Hanley Wood research shows that sustainability is one of the top factors for consumers choosing products for their homes.
As a designer (or architect), how can you accurately and efficiently answer your clients’ questions about the health and safety of their kitchens? And how does the Formaldehyde Rule impact those concerns?
What is Formaldehyde?
Despite popular belief, no wood products are 100% formaldehyde free. Formaldehyde is a naturally occurring organic compound found in nature and in trees. Formaldehyde occurs naturally in the environment with natural processes contributing up to 90 percent of formaldehyde found in the atmosphere. All wood species, and therefore all wood products, contain and emit small amounts of formaldehyde, as well as many fruits, vegetables, mushrooms, seafood, meats and coffee. Formaldehyde does not accumulate in humans or animals because it is quickly broken down by their metabolic processes. In the environment, it is quickly broken down in the air by moisture and sunlight, and by bacteria in the water and soil.
Cabinet manufacturers use composite wood (a positive environmental story) that extends the yield from the harvest of trees and makes cabinetry more affordable. The best performing adhesives used to make composite wood contain small amounts of the compound, urea formaldehyde.
Is exposure to Formaldehyde something my customers and I should worry about?
No. The use of formaldehyde is extensively regulated by numerous Federal organizations, including the World Health Organization, to ensure that any products containing formaldehyde don’t exceed the acceptable levels as mandated by the safety regulations. This means products will emit near naturally-occurring levels of formaldehyde.
The new Formaldehyde Rule requires that all products produced in the United States and imported into the U.S. contain and emit acceptable levels of formaldehyde that do not pose adverse health effects to humans, animals, or the environment.
Formaldehyde is one of the most well-studied compounds in commerce today, and its risk profile has been well characterized.
Basically, this means that if your clients are looking at wood or composite wood cabinets, they have nothing to worry about!
What does the new regulation mean for you?
So what does the new Formaldehyde regulation mean for you and your customers? The Formaldehyde rule requires all composite wood products made in the US (or imported to the US) to be tested by a third party certified by the EPA to ensure compliance with the acceptable formaldehyde levels outlined in the rule. In addition, all products must be labeled with the producer's name, lot number, an EPA-recognized third-party certification number, and a compliance statement.
This means that you can share with your clients that cabinets you specify are required to certain formaldehyde emission standards as outlined in the rule. It is now against the law for cabinets to contain panels or component parts that do not meet these requirements.
If your customers are looking for additional assurances that their cabinets are produced in a sustainable and environmentally responsible manner, look no further than the KCMA Environmental Stewardship Program. In addition to ensuring compliance with federal regulations like the Formaldehyde Rule, the ESP guarantees that products are produced using methods that have a positive impact on the environment. Certification is awarded annually to cabinet manufacturers based on compliance in five categories: air quality, product resources management, process resource management, environmental stewardship and community relations. The ESP goes beyond other environmental programs by taking a holistic approach to certification, holding the industry to high standards for their products, forest sustainability and manufacturing processes.
Next time your clients ask if a certain kitchen cabinet is safe for their home, you will be armed with all of the information you need to confidently answer “green” questions. For more information on Formaldehyde and KCMA’s Environmental Stewardship program, visit our website at www.kcma.org.