Formaldehyde is a simple naturally occurring chemical consisting of hydrogen,
oxygen and carbon. Present in some form in common everyday products, formaldehyde
does not accumulate in the human body or environment as it is a volatile
organic compound that breaks down rapidly. Many of the items found in a typical
home such as vinyl, wallpaper, mirrors, textiles, timber, dishwashing liquid
and even toothpaste contain a minimal quantity of formaldehyde.
Commonly referred to as WBP (Water & Boil Proof) or A Bond when used
as an adhesive in plywood, phenol formaldehyde provides the structural and
moisture durability required in structural, exterior and marine grades of plywood.
It is easily identified by the black line between the layers of ply. The formaldehyde
emissions in these plywood products when bonded with phenol formaldehyde are
deemed as very low and exempt from formaldehyde emission regulations in the United
States and Europe.
Two Australian voluntary standards make specific reference to
formaldehyde in pressed timber products and include emission limits: AS/NZS
1859.1:2004: Reconstituted wood-based panels – Specifications – Particleboard;
and AS/NZS 1859.2:2004: Reconstituted wood-based panels – Specifications –
To be categorised as a ‘low-formaldehyde emission’ product, finished
pressed wood products must meet test criteria levels of less than 1ppm of formaldehyde
content. Most Australian-made particleboards and dry-processed fibreboards now
meet the requirements for ‘low-formaldehyde emission’ products thanks to
improved manufacturing and resin technologies, particularly the use of
All plywood products bonded with phenol formaldehyde adhesive will
produce formaldehyde emissions, which will be at their highest levels immediately
after manufacturing, progressively decreasing in a matter of weeks. Formaldehyde
emission testing is performed shortly after manufacturing.
Research from numerous international organisations has shown that formaldehyde
emission from phenolic resin bonded plywood is extremely low and will reduce
even further once the phenolic coating is applied.
Plywood products, therefore, emit low to non-existent formaldehyde quantities
with each variety of plywood giving different readings. The formaldehyde levels
are dependent on the content of the adhesive glue lines of each plywood sheet as
well as on the type of exterior coating on the plywood.
MAXI Plywood can provide accurate information on formaldehyde emissions in
Australian plywood products.
Useful data is also available on the websites of Engineered Wood
Products Association of Australasia; Department of Health National Industrial
Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme; and Australian Competition and