With all the emphasis on energy and water, we sometimes forget that there is another aspect to sustainability that is not as often mentioned, indoor air quality. So it was with great interest that we read that California regulators have adopted new standards to reduce the amount of formaldehyde in wood products.

As previously covered in Inhabitat’s Green Building 101 guide (see Indoor Environmental Quality and Materials and Resources II), formaldehyde is generally used in the binding of wood products such as wood veneer, plywood and engineered wood products, and is probably most directly familiar as part of chemicals that provide that new-car smell. It is also a well-known carcinogen and is highly toxic, having been linked to respiratory ailments and throat cancer.

So what does it actually mean? Well the standards mean that by 2008 all the composite wood products would have to limit their formaldehyde emissions to around what the current European standards propose. By 2010, that level should drop to that of what Japan currently has, and by 2012, the level of formaldehyde on any products sold in California should be the lowest in the world.

As is well known, California is the 5th largest economy in the planet, so having them take initiative and become proactive in the reduction of formaldehyde in the internal environments of our buildings.

+California backs lowering formaldehyde in wood
+California Air Resources Board (ARB) press release
+OSHA fact sheet on formaldehyde
+Europe’s E2 formaldehyde standards
+Japan’s F series formaldehyde standards