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Particleboard is made from wood particles. The bits and pieces of wood accumulated when making wood products are glued together and create a lightweight, affordable wood alternative.
But how sustainable is particleboard as a product? Keep reading to learn more about its toxicity, energy consumption, and carbon footprint.
Particleboard creates a lot of dust when it’s being cut or created. This fine mist of wood can be harmful to workers, creating respiratory issues or even encouraging the growth of cancerous cells. However, resin is the most dangerous component in particleboard manufacturing.
The tiny wooden particles are bonded with formaldehyde, which is incredibly toxic. Older particleboard furniture will have had time to release any remaining formaldehyde, but new furniture can cause health issues. There are brands making particleboard without formaldehyde, which is a healthier and equally budget-friendly option.
The CDC takes formaldehyde poisoning very seriously. They acknowledge that it’s carcinogenic that can cause detrimental side effects like irritation to the nose, eyes, throat, and skin and cause difficulty breathing. Most importantly, formaldehyde causes cancer. The longer an individual is exposed to formaldehyde, especially at higher levels, the higher their risk of developing cancer is.
Source: Home Air Check/Youtube
Creating the particleboard resins and eventually, the actual panels uses a lot of energy. While particleboard is often considered an eco-friendly material, it does use the same amount of energy as MDF or plywood in production.
Heating and drying the panels is the biggest energy consumer in the process. About 82 to 87 percent of the particleboard’s energy is dedicated to heating and drying the final product.
However, one study suggests that particleboard isn’t as energy-guzzling as other sources say. The variation may have to do with where the material is made and the methods used.
Low Carbon Footprint
Particleboard is inherently low-waste because trees don’t need to be cut down. Instead, it puts what would normally be seen as leftover wood to good use. The particleboard production process doesn’t create waste and can even be recycled in some cases.
Overall, the carbon footprint of particleboard is relatively low, especially compared to plastic and virgin wood products. Unfortunately, that doesn’t make its resin, specifically the formaldehyde, any less dangerous.
Source: Hot Mess/Youtube
Wood Consumption in the U.S.
The United States uses a lot of wood. Up to 15 billion cubic feet of wood is used every year for many industries, including furniture, paper, and building houses. It’s also used for wood energy. A house large enough for one household requires two to three acres of forest to construct. While home construction slowed for a few years during the recession, it has picked back up, brought the trees with it, and sped up deforestation.
The good news about particleboard is that it doesn’t contribute to the 100 million tons of wood being harvested annually.
The biggest issue with particleboard is formaldehyde. If you can source the material with the carcinogenic substance in its resin, it may be a better material choice. However, particleboard is not as durable and long-lasting as normal solid wood, so it is not a great long-term choice.
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