MDF Woodworking Safety Concern

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MDF Woodworking Safety Concern

MDF Woodworking Safety Concern

When MDF is cut, a large quantity of dust particles are released into the air. It is important that a respirator is worn and that the material is cut in a controlled and ventilated environment. It is a good practice to seal the exposed edges to limit the emissions from the binders contained in this material.

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Formaldehyde resins are commonly used to bind together the fibres in MDF, and testing has consistently revealed that MDF products emit free formaldehyde and other volatile organic compounds that pose health risks at concentrations considered unsafe, for at least several months after manufacture. Urea-formaldehyde is always being slowly released from the edges and surface of MDF. When painting, it is a good idea to coat all sides of the finished piece in order to seal in the free formaldehyde. Wax and oil finishes may be used as finishes but they are less effective at sealing in the free formaldehyde.

Whether these constant emissions of formaldehyde reach harmful levels in real-world environments is not yet fully determined. The primary concern is for the industries using formaldehyde. As far back as 1987, the U.S. EPA classified it as a “probable human carcinogen” and, after more studies, the WHO International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), in 1995, also classified it as a “probable human carcinogen”. Further information and evaluation of all known data led the IARC to reclassify formaldehyde as a “known human carcinogen” associated with nasal sinus cancer and nasopharyngeal cancer, and possibly with leukaemia in June 2004.

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