What You Need To Know About Chemicals In Kitchen Cabinets And Wood Products Around The Home

12621258_sWhether they are stained or painted, wood or vinyl clad, cabinets provide storage while defining the appearance of the kitchen. During a minor kitchen remodel, you are more likely to repaint or reface the cabinets than replace them, so they are a long-lasting feature in your kitchen. What you do not want, however, is for the cabinets you choose to be a long-lasting source of deadly chemicals permeating the air.

Beneath The Pretty Finishes

You may never see a headline that says “Death by cabinet,” but the finishes you apply and the cabinets themselves can contain formaldehyde and other toxic chemicals. Formaldehyde, which occurs in nature and is man-made, is used in many consumer products as a preservative, embalming fluid, fumigant, adhesive, and disinfectant. The chemical "degasses" or gives off emissions for more than five years after installation and can be injurious to those who work with the product, as well as anyone who has it in their home. During heating season, when the furnace is on and the windows are shut, chemical omissions are elevated.

The Perils Of Product Creation

Levels of formaldehyde are particularly high in cheap furniture and building materials. Bargain cabinets, bookshelves, entertainment centers, and other furniture made of composite wood products can cost you in health issues. As consumers become more educated about using paints and stains that meet standards for low levels of volatile organic chemicals (VOCs), part of the problem is in the way cheap products are constructed.


  • The particleboard, plywood, or veneer that composes many cheap cabinets is made of wood byproducts bound together with glue containing high concentration of formaldehyde and VOCs.

  • Many manufacturers are unaware of what is in the wood products they buy.

  • Doors and frames may be stained or painted with solvent-based stains and paints.

  • The wood is sealed with a conversion varnish, a clear sealer that contains high levels of VOCs


New laws effective in the US since January 1, 2013 put limits on formaldehyde levels in imported and domestic wood products, a good step that may lead to higher furniture prices since manufacturers have to change their manufacturing methods. Unfortunately, formaldehyde is not the only potentially harmful chemical. Manufacturers who attempt to comply with the law may use products that have high levels of other chemicals that are not regulated, yet have high degassing rates.

Potential Health Hazards

Fortunately, most consumers are not particularly sensitive to cabinet and furniture emissions. The EPA and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) regards formaldehyde as a "probable human carcinogen." Those with asthma or other health issues may experience irritation to the eyes, nose and throat, itchiness, upper respiratory irritation, dizziness, nausea, and headache. The omissions even aggravate arthritis. Though homeowners may not have ill effects from cabinets or other wood products, those who work in factories to produce these items are at significant risk.

To reduce the likelihood of harmful emissions from cabinets, you should seek out green products when you remodel. You may have to dig deep into manufacturers' information to make sure you are not just buying products that are "green washed." This usually means that the exterior finishes are low VOC, but does not speak to internal composition.

Protecting Your Home And Family

In an ideal world, you will have no products in your home that contain potentially dangerous chemicals. One thing real-world consumers can do short of replacing every composite wood product in their homes is to make sure they have an air filtration system that can trap harmful particles. Fortunately, Air Filter Buy is a reliable filter source with quick delivery, whether you need an air filter, furnace filter, or whole house filters.

Check out the full line of Air Filter Buy products on the website or call (855) FILTBUY.