Particle board has been a popular choice for furniture since the 1960s, but is it bad for you? The short answer is yes—but it’s a little more complicated than that.
Let’s take a look at what particle board is, what kind of furniture it’s usually found in, and the potential health implications associated with it.
What Is Particle Board?
Particle board is an engineered wood product made from wood chips, sawdust, or other types of wood scraps that are glued together with resins and bonding agents. It’s generally cheaper and lighter than solid wood and plywood, so it’s often used to make affordable furniture like cabinets and shelves.
Unfortunately, because of its low cost and lightweight, particle board also tends to be lower quality than other types of wood—which can lead to some health concerns.
Particle Board Furniture – Good or Bad?
Particle board is commonly used to make bookcases, desks, tables, and cabinets—basically anything you’d find in an office or home office setting. It’s also sometimes used for kitchen cabinets and bathroom vanities.
Though there are some higher-end pieces made from particle board (like designer storage units), these tend to be more expensive than their solid wood counterparts because they often have extra features like built-in drawers or doors.
Health Implications of Particle Board Furniture
One of the main concerns with particle board furniture is that it can release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into your home. VOCs are chemical compounds that can be harmful to your health if inhaled over long periods of time.
They can cause symptoms such as:
- Eye irritation
- Respiratory problems
All things you want to avoid! Additionally, particle board tends to be more flammable than solid wood furniture. This means that if there were ever a fire in your home, the furniture made from particle board would likely catch fire quickly and spread flames rapidly throughout your house.
Formaldehyde in Furniture
Formaldehyde doesn’t sound like something you want anywhere near you, and it certainly shouldn’t be! It’s highly toxic, easily absorbed into the body through inhalation, and can cause adverse effects including coughing, chest pain, and problems with the central nervous system.
Formaldehyde has also been linked to cancer in humans – especially nasopharyngeal cancer. So if you come across formaldehyde or live/work in an area where it’s present, exercise extreme caution and consider investing in protective gear and ventilation systems.
Exposure to formaldehyde may cause:
- difficulty breathing
- asthma attacks
On a more “mild” scale it can also cause skin, eye and respiratory irritation. Long-term exposure can lead to a greater risk of bronchitis, reduced lung function and chronic fatigue.
Not only is it a potentially toxic substance for humans, but it can also be dangerous for the environment since it lingers in the air even after being emitted into the atmosphere. The U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) identifies formaldehyde as a hazardous air pollutant that has potential human health risks, so it’s wise to minimize our exposure to it when we can.
Is Particle Board Toxic to Burn?
Trying to burn particle board for a quick DIY solution is definitely not the answer. It is made with chemicals, so burning it can release toxic fumes as well as plenty of irritating particles.
Even if particle board isn’t painted, varnished, or treated, it’s still coated in glues and other hazardous materials that can be quite smelly when lit on fire. To avoid the toxicity and health risk of particle board smoke and ash – don’t burn it!
Get creative and find another way to make use of old particle board, or recycle it the proper way instead of resorting to lighting it up.
In conclusion, while particle board may be cheaper up front than other forms of wood furniture, it can pose serious health risks if not properly maintained or replaced when necessary.
If you’re looking for new furniture around the house but don’t want to break the bank on solid wood pieces, consider investing in higher-end pieces made from particle board that have extra features like drawers or doors built into them. These will help contain any VOCs released by the material as well as provide more protection against fires.
No matter which type of material you choose for your new furniture purchases, always remember safety first!