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Furniture effects on IAQ

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The reclassification of Formaldehyde by the International Agency for research on Cancer as carcinogenic to humans has triggered enormous concern globally. Lack of awareness in India on the formaldehyde emissions from UF bonded panels is even more worrisome.

Furniture is a functionally needed utility, keeping in view the ergonomic design needed for good working conditions. One of the most neglected aspect in India is the knowledge of acceptable level of formaldehyde emissions in the office or home interiors. It is mostly released from the wood panels used in the fabrication of furniture like Plywood, Blockboard, Particleboard and Medium Density Fibreboards (MDF). Therefore, it is preferable that the furniture manufacturers use wood panels with E1 certification.

Formaldehyde exposure potentially causes a variety of symptoms and adverse health effects, such as eye, nose, throat, and skin irritation, coughing, wheezing, and allergic reactions. Long-term exposure to high levels of formaldehyde has been associated with cancer in humans. Formaldehyde can affect people differently. Some people are very sensitive to formaldehyde at a certain level while others may not have any noticeable reaction to the same level.

Formaldehyde levels in indoor air can vary depending on temperature, humidity, and air exchange rate within the indoor space. In addition, several studies have shown that, in the presence of ozone, formaldehyde levels increase; therefore, the outdoor and indoor ozone levels are also relevant. Formaldehyde levels in internal office or home spaces may change with the season, day-to-day and day-to-night. Levels may be high on a hot and humid day and low on a cool, dry day.

Major sources of Indoor Formaldehyde emissions

Measuring formaldehyde emissions from individual interior product is difficult because a variety of furnishings in the office or homes can release formaldehyde or trap formaldehyde emitted from other sources. Products with greater emissions and larger surface areas in the office or homes will most likely have a greater contribution to indoor air formaldehyde levels.

Pressed-wood (i.e., hardwood plywood, particleboard, and medium-density fiberboard (MDF)) and wood-based products, especially those containing UF resins, may be a significant formaldehyde source. Moderate levels of formaldehyde initially follow application of wallpaper and paints. Some paints are now available with low-VOC formulations. Formaldehyde can be created from the chemical reaction between ozone and other VOCs during the use of personal computers, laser printers, and photocopiers. Products, such as carpets or gypsum board, do not contain significant amounts of formaldehyde when new. However, they may trap formaldehyde that is emitted into the air from other products and later release it into the indoor air.

Nitin Vaze

CEO Sleek Boards India



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