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Formaldehyde-free wood products possible, just not viable


BLACKSBURG, Va., June 23, 2004 – A World Health Organization panel of 26 scientists from 10 countries announced last week its conclusions that formaldehyde poses a greater hazard than previously thought. They noted that the chemical is "carcinogenic to humans."

In spite of their findings, the Environmental Protection Agency recently approved a rule that makes emission controls more lenient for plywood and wood product manufacturers.

Chip Frazier, an associate professor of wood science and forest products at Virginia Tech's College of Natural Resources who specializes in research on wood adhesives, says that even though the industry has substantially reduced formaldehyde emissions in recent years, emissions cannot be completely eliminated for certain adhesives. Consequently, the industry has developed emission-free alternatives, but these substitutes are not viable because of higher costs.

"Alternatives do exist," said Frazier, "and increased concern about formaldehyde emissions will accelerate the development of new technologies that are cost effective."

Building materials and home furnishings are among the wood products that may contain formaldehyde-emitting adhesives.

Contact Frazier at (540) 231-8318 or cfazier@vt.edu.

His website is http://www.woodscience.vt.edu/contactlists/facultydetail.asp?facultyID=5,.