Bamboo flooring is not a new or unknown product – it’s been around for more than 20 years now. It’s been specified by major architects and designers around the globe on very important residential as well as commercial projects, and there is a long and established track record that is a testament to the safety and durability of this incredible product. However, search for the terms “bamboo flooring” and “formaldehyde” and you’ll likely find all sorts of misleading (and patently untrue) information being spread around the web. Here we set the record straight by providing concrete facts and figures to make sure the truth is known.
What is Formaldehyde?
According to the EPA:
Formaldehyde occurs naturally in the environment. It is produced in small amounts by most living organisms as part of normal metabolic processes. Formaldehyde is a colorless, flammable, strong-smelling chemical that is used in building materials and to produce many household products. It is used in pressed-wood products, such as particleboard, plywood, and fiberboard; glues and adhesives; permanent-press fabrics; paper product coatings; and certain insulation materials. In addition, formaldehyde is commonly used as an industrial fungicide, germicide, and disinfectant, and as a preservative in mortuaries and medical laboratories.
Where is Formaldehyde Found?
- Common household items such as paints, adhesives, coatings, lacquers and finishes, paper products and permanent-press fabrics
- Building materials and insulation products
- Adhesives used in composite wood products such as hardwood plywood, particleboard and MDF (medium-density fiberboard) (engineered hardwood and bamboo floors fall into this category)
- Preservative chemicals used in some cosmetics and medicines, and other consumer products like as dishwashing soap and laundry softeners
- Fertilizers and pesticides
It is a byproduct of combustion and so is also found in:
- Cigarette smoke.
- Emissions from gas stoves and kerosene space heaters.
How Much Formaldehyde Is In Bamboo Flooring?
Despite formaldehyde being classed as a V.O.C (Volatile Organic Compound), it is only dangerous when found in high levels. Most high quality bamboo flooring brands contain little or no formaldehyde in their floors. These floors meet the most strict indoor off gassing standard in the world, called CARB Phase II, requires a formaldehyde levels no higher than .05ppm. High quality bamboo floors contain as little as .02ppm within their products, which is far below that limit. The best suppliers typically provide transparent and voluntary test results on their websites as a sign of good faith. Most strand woven bamboo uses only phenolic formaldehyde, which doesn’t have the bad reputation of urea formaldehyde. Urea formaldehyde is used in most engineered and hardwood bamboo flooring, but only in trace amounts.
Who Defines What Levels of Formaldehyde are ‘Safe’?
Formaldehyde in bamboo flooring depends on where in the world the products are produced and sold. The most rigorous indoor air standard in the world is CARB Phase II (set by California). Both CARB and European standards recommend that formaldehyde content in products should be 0.1ppm or below.
Don’t Believe Everything Your Read on the Web
While formaldehyde can indeed be harmful when discovered in large quantities, in everyday life formaldehyde is used in everything from the dining room table to kitchen cabinets (even humans themselves produce formaldehyde in small quantities). Formaldehyde is used in many industries, offering several helpful qualities. For example, it can be used as a disinfectant, to produce polymers and create other chemicals.
Unfortunately there are some interests out there that are threatened by the triple threat that bamboo floors provide – affordability, durability and eco-friendliness, and many of these folks have gone out of their way to mislead consumers into thinking that bamboo floors are full of dangerous chemicals. Given the facts it’s surprising (and sad) that such misinformation and fear-mongering still thrives.
Do all Bamboo Floor Brands Have Safe Levels of Formaldehyde?
Ensure that the bamboo floor brand you’re considering uses an independent third party U.S. laboratory to carry out annual tests. This also extends to the materials that you use when installing your flooring; for example, the glue and adhesives you use should be considered.
For bamboo flooring that’s completely safe for your home, family, pets and children explore our bamboo flooring colors and styles – the largest on the web; we also stock a wide range of zero VOC hardwood flooring adhesives – for a completely safe installation.
Image Credit: Klaus Beyer