An Introduction to Indoor Air Quality
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) & Formaldehyde

Formaldehyde is a compound chemical made up of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen that is found literally everywhere, since it occurs naturally and is synthesized for industrial use in everyday products. The list of household and personal care products that contain small amounts of formaldehyde is endless, and it can also be found in processed wood products, like furniture, siding, and flooring. While it is a very useful chemical used to make clothes permanent-pressed, as a preservative, and as part of the makeup of adhesive products, it is also dangerous and exposure can wreak havoc with your health in high concentration.

Reactions to formaldehyde vary. Some people have no reaction, while others have severe and potentially life-threatening response to exposure. Symptoms include eye, nose, and throat irritation, respiratory difficulties like wheezing and coughing, skin rash, headaches and fatigue, and in some cases, extreme allergic reactions. Allergies can develop at any time, even in a person who has never been prone to them. Formaldehyde is also a suspected carcinogen and is proven to trigger attacks in people with asthma.

The good news is that formaldehyde emissions decrease over time, so a house built in the 1970s before there were any emission standards in place is not likely to still leach formaldehyde gas into your home. The most exposure occurs when the wood product is newly installed. Formaldehyde, unlike some other chemicals found in the home, does not accumulate in the fat cells over time. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids. VOCs include a variety of chemicals, some of which may have short- and long-term adverse health effects. Concentrations of many VOCs are consistently higher indoors (up to ten times higher) than outdoors. VOCs are emitted by a wide array of products numbering in the thousands. Examples include: flooring, paints and lacquers, paint strippers, cleaning supplies, pesticides, building materials and furnishings.

Source of Formaldehyde Emissions

A great deal of wood flooring is manufactured of layers of wood particles or veneers pressed together and sealed with adhesives containing urea formaldehyde resin. Low-end flooring, even made from materials that you expect to be “green” can be manufactured with this adhesive, and have formaldehyde emissions of 0.237ppm as a result. Because the real danger is in the manufacturing process, it’s a mistake to assume something is eco-friendly because it is made from an eco-friendly product. Before you make a decision to buy, make sure you get all the facts.

Formaldehyde Ratings

European standards recommended in 2000 by the European Panel Industry defined formaldehyde emissions ratings. Original ratings included E1, measuring 9mg/100g and below, E2, measuring greater than 9mg/100g to below 30mg/100g, and E3, measuring a greater than 30mg/100g ratio. Pressure for more stringent standards led to a new ratings classification, E0, based on emissions measuring 0.5mg per liter and below. Europeans test methodology is based on the Perforator Test Method, which measures the formaldehyde levels inside the wood specimen.

Japan has also defined formaldehyde emissions ratings. The Japanese JIS/JAS Formaldehyde Adhesive Emission Standards, defined by the Japanese Industrial Standards (JIS) and Japanese Agricultural Standards (JAS) departments. Ratings are assigned in four categories, F*, F**, F***, and F****, with F**** having the lowest level of formaldehyde emissions below 0.03 ppm.

The United States has been slow to address this concern, but a rating system released in 2007 by the California Air Regulatory Board (CARB) aims to correct that. The Airborne Toxic Control Measure (ATCM) specifies staggered implementation dates ranging from 2009 to 2010 (depending on product) for a two-phase plan that calls for compliance on emissions levels in particleboard, MDF, thin MDF and hardwood plywood. CARB studies suggest that up to 5% of formaldehyde emissions are generated by composite wood products.

Phase 1 of the CARB plan already in effect requires that adhesive formaldehyde emissions measure equal to or less than 0.08 ppm (parts per million), a figure that exceeds OSHA standards already in play.

Phase 2, set for January 1, 2010, will force formaldehyde emissions in adhesives even lower, to 0.05 ppm, a higher standard than that of the European E0.

How much VOC does Genesis Strand Woven Bamboo emit?

All bamboo products are laminated, and the industry standard for this laminating process has long mandated the use of urea-formaldehyde adhesives. All urea-formaldehyde adhesives emit formaldehyde which is a VOC; however, Genesis’s proprietary manufacturing adhesives emit just 0.02 ppm (parts per million) or less. This is significantly less than allowable by all world standards, including Australian Standard E0, U.S. OSHA, German E0, Californian CARB Phase 1 and Phase 2, and the world’s most stringent Japanese JIS/JAS (F4star) emissions standard of 0.03ppm. Formaldehyde is present in the air that we breathe at natural background levels of about 0.03 ppm so the emissions from Genesis Strand Bamboo of 0.02ppm is effectively a zero emission limit.



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Make Sure It’s Genesis

Please make sure you are being supplied with genuine GENESIS BAMBOO FLOORING. Several retail outlets have been passing off inferior bamboo flooring as GENESIS Bamboo Flooring. Please check your packaging before installation.