11 Aug Part Two: Bamboo 2010 Style
Part Two: Formaldehyde Alternatives Can Pose Dangers, Too
It has been observed that in trying to solve a problem, we often create another.
The U.S. Green Building Council was trying to solve a problem in 2007 when it clamped down on Urea Formaldehyde – an ingredient in the adhesive used in many bamboo and engineered hardwood floors.
Until then, most traditional (non-strand) bamboo floors from the bamboo leaders contained Urea Formaldehyde, but in amounts far below the E1 limit (a German standard adopted in China) of 0.1 parts per million.
More stringent limits have followed. The CARB (California Air Resource Board) limit for formaldehyde emissions is .05 ppm. And flooring products with GREENGUARD Environmental Institute Certification® have been tested to ensure that formaldehyde emissions do not exceed .05 ppm.
Flooring products that have FloorScore certification have been tested to ensure formaldehyde emissions do not exceed .0135 ppm. That limit is based on California Specification 01350, will be lowered to .0073 ppm in January 2012. GREENGUARD Children and Schools certification for flooring meets the same limits.
With the pressures imposed by CA Specification 01350 and LEED, there is a quest to eliminate these emissions altogether, and it has opened a new debate. To eliminate formaldehyde emissions, some manufacturers are using adhesives that contain isocyanate, which can pose health dangers to factory workers w ho are in contact with the glue before it dries. Others have sought different alternatives.
Here is a list of what some of the most visible bamboo manufacturers are using:
Teragren® bamboo: The company’s strand bamboo line – and its 72-inch length traditional solid strip are the only stocked products that qualify for LEED’s no added urea formaldehyde rules, according to a phone discussion with the company’s technical department. But the company’s other leading lines – Signature, Studio and Craftsman – can be specially ordered without Urea Formaldehyde. As of this posting, I have not received a response from the company’s technical department as to what type of adhesive they are using in this special-order product.
Smith & Fong Plyboo®: Offers Plyboo Pure flooring, plywood and veneer, as well as strand, with no added Urea Formaldehyde. The company began converting to a Urea-Formaldehyde-free manufacturing process in 2007. This process, however, involved adhesives that contain isocyanate, which the company wanted to eliminate. So, late last year, Plyboo took another step and began converting to its new SoyBond adhesive. This conversion still is in process. “SoyBond emits nothing,” says John McIsaac, company spokesman. “It’s made of soy flour, water and a benign binder used in paper towels and currency.”
US Floors®: The adhesive used in US Floors’ bamboo and wood flooring emits no formaldehyde – urea or otherwise. It does contain isocyanate, but the company says it has employees in China who ensure that all safety precautions are enforced for workers. “We only use responsible manufacturers who view the safety of the workers as paramount,” Gary Keeble, marketing manager, confirms.
Green Choice Flooring International: Uses the same adhesive as US Floors and responds much the same about safety: “They are required to wear protective gear, including gloves when handling any board, rubber gloves and aprons when working with wet processes and protective and/or breathing masks,” says an email returned by the sales department.
EcoTimber®: Introduced no added Formaldehyde flooring as a standard product in 2008. This Colorado-based company says that responsible factories using adhesives containing isocyanate take all needed precautions to protect workers. The company also uses PVA adhesives that are formaldehyde-free and pose no danger to workers, according to its website.
— Nancy Kibbee is editor at naturalinteriors.com