Why Antique Reproductions Don't Use Formaldehyde
Outgassing (sometimes referred to off-gassing, in regards particularly to indoor air quality) has become a growing concern in the furniture industry. Most especially, off-gassing of new furniture that has been mass-produced in a factory, possibly and most notably from countries outside of the United States. Although it is not always the case, certain countries do create the most of these offending products because so many items are made there, shipped to the U.S., and quality control is often either lacking or completely nonexistent.
And formaldehyde, unfortunately, is a common culprit of off-gassing, because it is used to cure particleboard, pressed-wood, and plywood, all manufactured composite woods. Any smorgasbord of chemicals can off-gas, not just formaldehyde, but today we will be focusing on why antique furniture reproductions do not use formaldehyde, and why it is important.
What is Formaldehyde?
Formaldehyde is a colorless, strongly scented gas used in making building materials and many household products. In the case of pressed woods, it is most common in particleboard, plywood, and fiberboard and often used in glues as well as adhesives. It can also be found in permanent-press fabrics, paper product coatings, and even insulation materials and is used in the creation of other chemicals.
While formaldehyde occurs naturally and is an essential intermediate in cellular metabolism in mammals and humans, long term exposure by inhalation poses a significant danger to human health and is known to be a carcinogen. A carcinogen is any substance, radionuclide, or radiation that promotes carcinogenesis, the formation of cancer.)
The Danger in Closed Spaces
Outgassing can be significant if it is collected in a closed environment where the air is circulated or stagnant. In this situation, many of our homes feature a central air or heating system which heats or cools the air room from room, recirculating that air. Homes or rooms can be considered a closed space.
Furniture that is made with highly processed parts that include pressed-wood, plywood, particleboard of composite woods may begin off-gassing if left in a room of your home. This creates a chance that the highly processed parts of that furniture could be giving off formaldehyde.
Why Antique Furniture Reproductions Do Not Use Formaldehyde
Neither antique furniture nor authentic antique furniture reproductions will ever use materials or items which may off-gas and produce formaldehyde. Antique and antique reproductions are very safe to have in your home. The glue used on antique veneered pieces is either a water-based glue or a hide (animal) glue unused in construction. The wood used in antique veneers may have changed over the years, but it is always a base genuine wood not made of pressed or composite pieces.
It is always difficult to pinpoint exactly what sort of composition the finishes used were in genuine antiques from the 1600s to the 1950s. However, most early antiques and pieces from the United States used either wax, shellac, varnish, and lacquer. Antique and vintage furniture is non-toxic and safe to have in the home. For this reason, reputable antique reproduction furniture makers follow in these footsteps.
Real wood, water-based or hide based glue and various finishes made by expert antique reproduction specialists should never use any MDF, or pressed wood of any kind. You've likely been lied to if you should you find what should have been an antique piece of furniture using pressed wood of any kind.
The dangers of formaldehyde are too much of a risk for most reputable furniture makers to ever use. How to Reduce Exposure from Household Items
There are several ways to lessen your exposure to this carcinogen in not only the furniture you use every day but in household items as well.
- Always follow any household product manufacturer’s directions
- Always have plenty of fresh air when using these products
- Always throw away unused or little-used containers safely, buy in quantities you know you will use.
- Keep out of the reach of children and pets.
- Never mix household products or chemicals unless specifically instructed on the label.
- Always use paints, lacquers, or coatings in a well-ventilated area, preferably outdoors.
How to Reduce Exposure from the Furniture
- Always do your research into the company or carpenter in which you are purchasing your antiques, antique reproductions, and handmade furniture.
- Never hesitate to ask a furniture company where their lumber and materials are sourced from if it is not readily available on their website. (Although one should be suspect if you cannot find any mention of lumber sources and other materials).
- Look for furniture or companies that create products that meet the California Air Resources Board (CARB) Phase 2 criteria.
- Look for furniture and companies that state their furniture components have no added formaldehyde.
- Avoid furniture and furniture companies that use urea-formaldehyde resins that do not carry a California Air Resources Board (CARB) phase 2 compliant label.
- Avoid purchasing any furniture with composite wood components.
- If you notice or cannot avoid furniture with composite wood components, air out new furniture away from the home or in a well-ventilated area, or only consider used items because the release of formaldehyde gas from composite wood decreases over time.
Of course, the safest route is to never purchase any piece of furniture with compressed wood and questionable manufacturing practices. This is why at Laurel Crown, we will never use anything less than the premier pieces of ethically sourced Honduras mahogany wood with CARB compliant stains and finishes. Because we care deeply for our work and the environment, we painstakingly ensure that we create furniture that lasts generation to generation, lowering the need to constantly purchase and replace cheaper factory-made pieces. Second, as we create these pieces in steps as exact as possible to the master craftsmen throughout centuries where factories and power tools, advanced chemicals, and other modern inventions were not available—we simply do not use the same materials and components that today’s dubious assembly-line furniture may use.
When you are looking for the most durable, the most long-lasting, and the most ethically sourced safest heirloom quality furniture for you, your family, then you need not look any further. At Laurel Crown, we create pieces of living reproduced history so that you too, can carry on a tradition that can withstand the test of time.
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