January 24th, 2023

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Plywood and human carcinogen content -Myths and Facts

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Cancer is a disease characterized by the uncontrolled growth and spread of abnormal cells in the body. The relationship between cancer and the usage of plywood, a type of engineered wood product, is not well-established. However, there are some concerns about the potential health risks associated with the use of plywood and other wood products.

One concern is the potential exposure to formaldehyde, a chemical commonly used as a binder in the manufacture of plywood and other engineered wood products. Formaldehyde is classified as a human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and the National Toxicology Program (NTP). Long-term exposure to formaldehyde has been linked to an increased risk of nasopharyngeal cancer and leukemia.

The emissions of formaldehyde from plywood and other engineered wood products can vary depending on the type of product and the manufacturing process used. Some plywood products may emit higher levels of formaldehyde than others. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) has set standards for formaldehyde emissions from composite wood products, including plywood. Products that meet these standards are labeled as “CARB Phase 2 compliant” and are considered to have lower formaldehyde emissions.

However, it is important to note that the risk of cancer from formaldehyde exposure is generally considered to be low, and the majority of studies have been conducted on workers who have been occupationally exposed to high levels of formaldehyde.

Another concern is the potential exposure to wood dust, which is a known human carcinogen. Wood dust is generated when cutting or sanding wood products, and prolonged exposure can lead to an increased risk of nasal cancer. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has established permissible exposure limits (PELs) for wood dust to protect workers from the health effects of prolonged exposure.

It is important to keep in mind that the vast majority of people will have no significant exposure to formaldehyde or wood dust from the use of plywood, and the risk of cancer is considered to be low. However, it is always a good idea to take precautions when working with wood products to minimize exposure to any potential health hazards.

References:

International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC): Formaldehyde

National Toxicology Program (NTP): Formaldehyde

California Air Resources Board (CARB): Formaldehyde emissions from composite wood products

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA): Wood dust

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