Bamboo flooring is well known for its eco-friendliness, sustainability and durability. However, most manufacturers of bamboo floors use a urea-formaldehyde resin for the lamination process. While formaldehyde is known to have various health hazards, there is a lot of misleading information regarding formaldehyde in bamboo flooring online. Here we’ll explore the question of safety when it comes to using bamboo flooring containing formaldehyde in your home.
What is Formaldehyde?
First off, let’s discuss what formaldehyde is. It’s a naturally occurring chemical that’s colourless, flammable and has a strong smell. Although found in small amounts as a metabolic by-product in living organisms including humans, formaldehyde is classified as VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) which is considered harmful.
Formaldehyde is used in the production of paints, adhesives, plywood, polymers, fibreboard, pressed-wood, insulation and paper products, permanent-press fabric, preservatives, detergents and several other products. An aqueous solution of formaldehyde is used in industrial pesticides, fungicides, disinfectants, and as preservatives in medical laboratories and in mortuaries.
Harmful Effects of Formaldehyde
Formaldehyde is a common air pollutant found in many homes because of its use in almost all essential household products and building materials. The amount of formaldehyde in the indoor air of each home varies. On an average, in every cubic metre of air, 50 micrograms of formaldehyde is found in every home. If this amount increases too much, it can lead to many health concerns.
Long-term exposure to excessive levels of formaldehyde can cause nose and eye irritation, increase breathing problems in asthma patients and even cause cancer. To know more about the effects of formaldehyde, read the assessment under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.
How Much Formaldehyde does Bamboo Flooring Contain?
It’s important to note that formaldehyde is dangerous only when it’s present in high levels. Premium-quality bamboo flooring contains little or no formaldehyde. It’s the cheaper varieties that contain varying levels of formaldehyde, depending on the manufacturer. Most high-quality and expensive bamboo floors are produced under strict worldwide indoor gassing standards (CARB Phase II). According to the standard, formaldehyde emission indoors should not be more than 0.05 ppm. Most high-quality bamboo floors contain less than 0.02 ppm of formaldehyde and are, therefore, safe to use indoors. The emission levels also decrease over time.
Also, most strand woven types of bamboo flooring are treated with phenolic formaldehyde, unlike urea-formaldehyde that’s used in mostly engineered or hardwood bamboo flooring. Phenolic formaldehyde isn’t as harmful as urea-formaldehyde. However, the levels of urea-formaldehyde used are also very low.
Is Your Bamboo Flooring Safe?
When buying bamboo flooring for your home, ask your manufacturer about the VOC and the formaldehyde emission levels. Make sure to check the glues and adhesives that were used for floor installation, the material of the sub floor and also the floor finishing product which can also contain formaldehyde. Most bamboo floors are safe given that formaldehyde is harmful only when found in large quantities.
Formaldehyde is used in several everyday items ranging from dining tables and kitchen cabinets, to laundry softeners and dishwashing soaps. As long as the emission level is low, it’s safe. If you’re looking for bamboo flooring that’s safe for your home, invest in higher quality flooring and inquire about its making from your manufacturer.