Binders in Manufactured Wood Products: Beyond Formaldehyde

Concerned about emissions regulations, the manufactured wood products industry is moving away from glues formulated with urea formaldehyde and phenol formaldehyde.

September 28, 2007

Manufactured wood products—including plywood, oriented-strand board (OSB), laminated-strand lumber, particleboard, and medium-density fiberboard (MDF)—have the environmental advantage of being made from small-diameter or other low-quality trees or waste from wood-processing operations, conserving higher-quality timber. With these products, the wood is peeled into thin veneers, chipped into small strands or flakes, or ground into wood flour; in each case, the pieces are then glued to produce a durable and stable panel or lumber product.

Two glues, or binders as they are called in the industry, dominate the manufactured wood products industry: urea formaldehyde (UF) and phenol formaldehyde (PF). For interior-grade products, including particleboard, MDF, and hardwood plywood, UF binders have long been more popular because of their low cost and light color compared with PF binders. For exterior-grade applications PF binders are favored because of their better moisture resistance.