What is MDF?
MDF or Medium Density Fibreboard is an engineered composite sheet material composed of synthetic resin bonded wood fibres. MDF is available in a variety of sheet thicknesses and its ultra smooth, grain free surface makes it an ideal material for furniture, building, shop fitting and signage.
MDF is typically composed of 82% virgin wood fibre, 10% synthetic resin binder, 7% water, less than 1% paraffin wax solids, less than 0.05% silica and less than 0.05% total extractable formaldehyde.
The last ingredient formaldehyde, has cause a lot of negative attention and MDF as a material has gained a tarnished reputation.
What is Formaldehyde?
Formaldehyde is a naturally occurring chemical used for nearly a century and employed in at least 85 manufacturing sectors – for products such as paint, varnish, cosmetics, disinfectants, medicines, and adhesives.
The resin used to bind the wood fibre in virtually all MDF boards contains a very low level of Formaldehyde.
Countries worldwide have specific regulations limiting the release of formaldehyde from products and manufacturers of products containing MDF are obligated to supply certification satisfying these market regulations.
MDF boards manufactured in Europe for construction purposes must meet the appropriate European standards. These are BS EN 622-1:2003 Fibreboards-Specifications – Part 1: General requirements and BS EN 622-5:2009 Fibreboards – Specifications – Part 5: Requirements for dry process boards (MDF). There are two European formaldehyde classes, E1 and E2, depending on levels of formaldehyde emission measured. The release of formaldehyde from E1 boards is less than 0.1 ppm (parts per million) and for E2 boards it is between 0.1 ppm and 0.3 ppm.
The MDF used in KittiCraft products is certified to be Low Formaldehyde EU E1. This guarantees the safety of our products and allows us to export to every country, worldwide.
If MDF is safe, why has it gained a tarnished reputation?
During the manufacturing process, the dust produced by cutting MDF does pose a health risk if inhaled. The atmosphere created by machining or sanding MDF board contains a mixture of softwood dust and hardwood dust (if it is present). In addition, there will also be free formaldehyde, dust particles onto which formaldehyde is adsorbed and potentially, the resin binder itself and its derivatives. However, the levels of free formaldehyde in boards made within the EU at levels of formaldehyde class E1 are thought to be insignificant. This is because at these levels the resin is fully reacted (polymerised).
The end result however is that there has been a confusion between the risks of working with MDF and that of finished products containing MDF. Once the MDF is cut and finished, it is no more harmful than a tomato. In fact, weight for weight, MDF and tomatoes have the same percentage of formaldehyde content. I am quite sure no one would be tempted to eat a lethal dose of 56 pounds of the fruit in one sitting, just as no one would sit in a room of MDF saw dust all day every day for years and years!
The benefits of MDF make it a great choice for furniture as it is strong, stable, and provides many fun options for design.