Indoor air quality has become a significant issue in North America and other parts of the world since the 1990s. The presence of organic chemicals in the indoor environment is a subject of increasing concern for both residences and workplaces. Wood is a naturally occurring complex organic material – its natural emissions (including odours) are often valued by consumers. Wood composites, including secondary manufactured products (such as furniture, kitchen cabinets, office furniture), use adhesives and are sometimes heated during the manufacturing process. Gaseous emissions from wood and wood composites generally cause suspicions in terms of the nature, volume and toxicity of the organic chemicals that are emitted. Formaldehyde emission is particularly highlighted as a health concern.
Different types of surface treatments that are applied to panel products can act as barriers to volatile organic compounds (VOCs). There is, however, a lack of empirical data on the effectiveness of these treatments as barriers to product emissions. To assist Canadian panel producers and secondary manufacturers in reducing the impact of their products on indoor air quality, Forintek proposes a two-year research project to characterize and quantify VOC emissions from finished and unfinished panel products.
This project will address the need for empirical data on the effectiveness of today’s commonly applied surface treatments. The information will help particleboard, medium density fibreboard (MDF) and hard board (HB) manufacturers, as well as secondary manufacturers, answer their customers’ inquiries about VOC off-gassing from finished products. Different treatment methods will be evaluated for their effectiveness as emission barriers. These will include paint, UV topcoat, acrylic topcoat, vinyl resin system (ethyl-vinyl acetate), phenolic saturated film, melamine paper, wet process multi-coat, foil resin system (polyvinyl acetate) and powder coating.
The third year of the project will continue collecting empirical data on the remaining finished products. The newly acquired HPLC is dedicated to testing low formaldehyde emitting materials. Many finished and low emitting particleboard and MDF samples will be tested according to this method. Also, some previously tested samples will be retested in order to evaluate their behaviour over time when kept sealed and refrigerated. More decaying tests will be conducted and empirical models will be developed.
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