Furniture and wood

Furniture and wood in the home can bring a number of unwanted substances, depending on their origin.

mobiliario y madera

Wooden furniture may have already received a number of highly toxic treatments in order to preserve the wood.

For many reasons, aside from the well-established tradition of wood culture, a lot of wood nowadays is prone to damage and to pest attacks (e.g. insects that eat the bark or fungi).

This has come about as a result of the continuous use of synthetic, often very toxic chemicals as preservatives. Creosote, for example, is a polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon which has been linked to various health issues. Other substances that have been used as wood preservatives include: pentachlorophenol, arsenic, lindane, dieldrin or permethrin.

Aside from this, there are various toxic paints and varnishes that are used to cover wood and wooden furniture. Until very recently, these products could have contained lead; however, nowadays it is much more likely that they contain aggressive solvents.

Wood finishes can contain and emit various chemicals. For example, paints and some wood treatments can contain formaldehyde, acetone, toluene or butanol. Wood dyes can contain: nonane, decane, undecane, dimethyloctane, dimethylnonane, trimethylnonane, trimethylbenzene. Paints may contain: poliutethane, nonane, decane, undecane, butanone, ethylbenzene, dimethylbenzene. Latex-based paints may contain: 2-Propanone, butanone, ethylbenzene, propylbenzene, 1,1-oxybisbutane, butyl propionate or toluene. Finally, furniture varnishes may contain: trimethypentane, dimethylhexane, trimethylhexane, trimethylheptane, ethylbenzene or limonene.

Regarding wood chipboard, a widely used material, its particles are often joined in chains which contain, and can emit over several years, a very dangerous chemical: formaldehyde (which can also be found in the wood treatment made with melanin-formol).

There are different kinds of chipboard: some with more formaldehyde and some with less. There are regulations, namely the UNE 56-724-86 that establishes this types by categorizing them from P1 to P4 (P4 being the category containing the most formaldehyde).

Compressed wood, such as chipboard or plywood, can emit chemicals such as the aforementioned formaldehyde, a-pinene, xylenes, butanol, butyl acetate, hexanal and acetone.

Plastic furniture can be another source of emission of various chemicals such as phthalates or flame retardants. 

Furniture made with fabrics e.g. sofas can, aside from flame retardants, contain chemicals which have been added to avoid the growth of living organisms in the fabric e.g. fungicides. The most famous case of this was the dimethylfumarate scandal which affected many Europeans.

Upholstery and curtains can include substances such as formaldehyde, chloroform, methylchloroform, tetrachloroethylene, trichloroethylene and flame retardants.

Sometimes, the sources of these pollutants can be more subtle. For example, disisocyanates, formaldehyde and flame retardants may be emitted from certain polyurethane foam mattresses.

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