Just how ‘toxic’ is MDF, exactly?? [video #290]

Just how ‘toxic’ is MDF, exactly??

#mdf #formaldehyde #healthyworking

In this video I delve a little deeper into the whole “MDF & Formaldehyde” issue, and try to find out exactly how unhealthy wood is, generally. Enjoy!

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Further reading:-

HSE FAQ on MDF & Formaldehyde – http://bit.ly/MDF_FAQ
Article in The Guardian – http://bit.ly/Guardian_MDF
Medite on Formaldehyde https://youtu.be/ftffBakPlxQ
Medite – https://mdfosb.com
Medite MR MDF data sheet- https://mdfosb.com/assets/uploads/downloads/MEDITE-MR.pdf
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  1. David Harnett on March 2, 2023 at 6:06 am

    The main problem is The Guardian, their journalist can be toxic!

  2. S M on March 2, 2023 at 6:09 am

    Can you test that device in a forest far away upwind from cities?

  3. Dogstar on March 2, 2023 at 6:10 am

    I’ve been using MDF for 25 years; no problem. Great paint finish but heavy to move. I like it.

  4. Stuart Duncan on March 2, 2023 at 6:10 am

    What were the ambient levels e.g. monitor in the centre of the room without being closely surrounded by materials? Is this another scare story by the newspapers? No more bacon, alcohol and now wood!

  5. Daniel Malpas on March 2, 2023 at 6:11 am

    The guardian is an idiot rag, best ignored… Their "story" is totally made up… The only issue with MDF is the inhalation of fine dust particles of wax and resin. Similar hazard to silica dust… Minimise exposure, ventilate room, mask if necessary…

  6. P0tat07 on March 2, 2023 at 6:15 am

    If we worried about every little chemical in every product sold, we might as well just go back to the stone ages.

  7. derek granger on March 2, 2023 at 6:16 am

    A good reason to make sure you have product liability insurance as well as public liability insurance. But a few quid spend on an air quality metre could be a a good investment so long as you record the results with customer verification

  8. Paul Newman on March 2, 2023 at 6:20 am

    Holes in a newspaper story??? Never would believe it! They love a good scare story to sell their shite lol

  9. irelmo69 on March 2, 2023 at 6:20 am

    Were you doing this at 1am?
    Interesting vlog though. I was so worried about it I bought an m class dust extractor.

  10. steven wallace on March 2, 2023 at 6:23 am

    . My Dad was a carpenter for 40 years, when MDF was introduced to the UK he was advised to always cut it outside or wear a mask if cutting it inside. I read MDF is banned in Canada, France and China due to the levels of formaldehyde gas.

  11. Georgina Collymore on March 2, 2023 at 6:26 am

    Hi Peter I would like my carpenter to buy the Medite brand of MDF but I have noticed that there is a Medite clear formaldehyde free bourd. I was wondering is this the one we should be buying if not do you know if the one you are recommending has a particular code name or number?

  12. Kermit on March 2, 2023 at 6:30 am

    Sounds more like the paint or lacquer finish is what gassed out into their home. That being said, as a 15 year cabinet maker/installer, if I could I’d make all MDF and Particle board illegal. Even if it was perfectly safe, it’s still garbage imo. It’s all just a highly compressed sponge that begins sagging and absorbing moisture the day you install it.

  13. Gary Wheeley on March 2, 2023 at 6:30 am

    Granite releases radon gas ……let’s rip out all granite work tops splash backs and tiles and all the kerb stones….

  14. Ian Murray on March 2, 2023 at 6:32 am

    Just happened across this video..!! and although very informative it did make me smile… we sit around fire pits, barbecue’s wood stoves, sit in steaming hot saunas loving the fresh smell of whatever toasted wood is in there , we have radioactive granite worktops and we smear some fairly unsavoury chemicals on our bodies to keep the U.V. Rays at bay …?? I mean “ REALLY” I do my best to mitigate dust when working and I’m an avid fan of P.P.E. But maybe we should worry more about the tiny pieces of tungsten carbide flying around the workshop and the nano meter size particles of wood created when we burn through a tough cut.!!! OR NOT….!!!! Great video as usual….😁

  15. Alexandra Marks on March 2, 2023 at 6:33 am

    In the US we have extremely lax laws for fire retardants… and anything to protect the consumer. (its a shit show over here for everything haha.) I just ordered a rug from wayfair and it wreaks– I live in NYC so I cannot off gas properly. I was thinking about buying one of these air quality devices. I also just bought an air purifier. I probably need to return this rug and spend $2000 dollars for a rug with way less VOCs but its hard to shell that out in pandemic. I did NOT expect the smell and chemicals to be this intense. my cat smells like fire retardant. poor kitty.

  16. Mark Copple on March 2, 2023 at 6:33 am

    Hey Peter! You have gotten me interested in MR-MDF. Finding this stuff in the USA is like finding a unicorn at the end of a rainbow. I do have a few questions: 1) Are you familiar with "Fire resistant MDF" vis a vis MR MDF? Also Axeminster has a MFT made out of HDF (High density fiberboard). It seems as if HDF. I was curious about its properties vis a vis MDF as well. Please keep up all the good work on your channel!

  17. Kevin Thomson on March 2, 2023 at 6:34 am

    So according to carb 2 we are not allowed to have wood furniture in our homes ? Lol. SMH 🤦‍♂️

  18. Vali S on March 2, 2023 at 6:35 am

    After a long day of cutting mdf, chipboard and melamine I get very tired and exhausted…. but I go to sleep every night and I feel a lot better in the morning

  19. Hashbrown_offical on March 2, 2023 at 6:36 am

    I work with MDF I dont wear gloves or nothing?

  20. piequals3.14 on March 2, 2023 at 6:37 am

    Wonder was the ladys name karen

  21. Derek Smith on March 2, 2023 at 6:37 am

    Would love to see how much chemicals off gas from the very newspaper that complained about them

  22. Georgina Collymore on March 2, 2023 at 6:39 am

    Hi Peter thank you for your responce we did paint the MDF with MDF primer then eggshell paint but all waterbased. I have heard that if you use zinnerbin to prim it then their would be no smell from the MDF. But I’m thinking if I would have to sand back to re paint. I might be better of getting the safer MDF but I know its going to be awkward removing some of the shelfs that have been glued inside the fitted wardrobe. But I’m so put off by the formaldehyde smell. I think we have no choice but to buy the safer MDF and start again.

  23. Barry Hayward on March 2, 2023 at 6:41 am

    Thanks for this Peter. Always been vaguely aware of the supposed dangers in working with MDF but you’ve now brought me up to speed. Excellent presentation, put into lay person terms with some sensible and practical conclusions and good reference documents too. Thanks again 👍

  24. The Velo In The Vale on March 2, 2023 at 6:41 am

    Here’s a question nobody seems to ask … ( the bleedin obvious ) is it possible to make MDF without Formaldehyde? If so … why not? If not, why not something else?

  25. Chris England on March 2, 2023 at 6:41 am

    I fitted some MDF skirting boards last year and they required a considerable amount of sanding. I must say, I was wary at the time about the dust given off and clearly any toxic fumes would have been many many times higher than one might expect when the skirting boards had been fitted and painted over. It would be interesting to know just how high the levels were during such work.

  26. John Syrinek on March 2, 2023 at 6:41 am

    Modern homes are tightly sealed, and most people won’t be opening the doors and windows periodically in the middle of winter (or worse, summer in warmer climates). This allows accumulation; however, the culprits are probably the paint, as you say.

    I played around with an air quality meter at my last home and was amazed at how high the numbers went when the meter was placed near the walls. The radiant heat from the exterior during summer seemed to make things 10 times worse. This was in an older apartment that had clearly been painted multiple times with what I suspect was economy paint – the only thing that could’ve made it worse would have been modern, tightly-sealed construction.

  27. V T on March 2, 2023 at 6:45 am

    Journalists are there to do one thing – sell a story. It has to be sexed up. Be it the Guardian or The Sun. These days you can’t tell the difference anyway. If you question a journalist over the dramatisation they’ll then try and behind other excuses, claiming they don’t write the headlines etc.

    So whether it was paint or the MDF, some people are just more sensitive to smells. They may have even been egging each other on. Then on the internet googling and working themselves up even more. At that point you can become fixated. It also depends on the mentality of the customers. I have some extremely arrogant customers who are more on a power trip about being right than dealing with facts.

  28. Living La Dolce Vita on March 2, 2023 at 6:45 am

    in our quest for warmer homes and as a result sealing them, it’s little wonder we get a build up of fumes etc with little ventilation. Just to add I used to work in a factory making kids play furniture, basically scaled down furniture, made from MDF, for a few years and was never really aware of this issue, and yet I am still on this planet.

  29. shadow582a on March 2, 2023 at 6:46 am

    I would guess that the California standards were based on a volume of air greater than the space around your meter. If the wood was left to gas into your workshop. the concentration of chemicals would be greatly diluted. You do make a great point in that even benign wood will give off those gases. An interesting experiment would be to repeat the test with a more controlled volume of air and include some other materials such as MDF and MR MDF. Thanks for the interesting video.

  30. Stelios Posantzis on March 2, 2023 at 6:46 am

    This is quite informative. Thank you for pointing out this article. I probably wouldn’t normally notice it – even though I’m pro natural wood and plywood and anti all other kinds of artificial/engineered wood. Having said that, my home is full of MDF and particleboard furniture – there’s probably the odd piece of real wood furniture but that’s just it.
    I’d be careful with any air quality monitoring device if used for professional purposes. I’d make doubly sure it’s been calibrated and approved by a government approved laboratory. The reason I mention this is that it’s all well and good reading the display readings and expecting to be in safe/unsafe air quality environment based on them, but what is this device actually measuring? and what do these readings mean exactly? How must the measurements be done, in what conditions etc.? For the formaldehyde reading, what is being measured is quite unambiguous, so the only question is whether the device is calibrated and used correctly. For VOC readings, I’d want a clear definition of what the device measures, from its spec sheet, and a confirmation from a laboratory.
    As far as the reported case is concerned, it’s hard to make any definite conclusions from the article. It’s simply impossible to make an educated guess and isolate the possible irritant from the information given. It’s probably nearly impossible to replicate the conditions now. Was it the MDF used? Was it the paint and solvents used or other substances such as glues, putties etc.? Could it be something unrelated to the furniture installed by the company mentioned? Who knows – it’s impossible to draw a conclusion.
    The only thing that must be certain is this: all modern homes should be aerated every day (assuming there’s no valid reason not to so, such as an industrial accident or forest fire). The reason is, modern homes are constructed with all sorts of man-made materials and most of them, being composites containing organic compounds, emit all kinds of VOCs. Besides, there is the normal build-up of VOCs, other gases and dust that are a direct by-product of our normal daily home activities – not to mention germs etc.

  31. P0tat07 on March 2, 2023 at 6:46 am

    Paying a lot of money for MDF furniture.😂😂😂😂

  32. Mark Koons on March 2, 2023 at 6:47 am

    My impression, due to what appeared in the US trade magazines 25 years ago, that aside from permanent lung damage from sub-micron particles, the gravest hazard to woodworkers was working in an environment where MDF was being pulverized into airborne flour, that the flour itself had such an immense surface area that it outgassed tremendously. Here in the states California is widely believed to be governed by crackpot environmentalists and "safety Nazis". Whether that reputation is justified, almost everything sold here including steel hardware is accompanied by cancer warnings to comply with California’s regulatory environment. Hard to know just what is the truth.

  33. The die is cast on March 2, 2023 at 6:48 am

    Try Lakeland paints at Heysham or Lancaster for Ecologically friendly paints. In the Uk always ask for MSD sheets for any paint or adhesives before buying to ensure you will not buy somthing you may find harmful to you.

  34. TURN211 on March 2, 2023 at 6:48 am

    Maybe your benchtop is throwing off the readings? Just my 2 cents.

  35. a on March 2, 2023 at 6:49 am

    The question about your video is the way you measure at the end by putting the air monitor next to the wooden boards. However, in the regulation they may test at a greater distance.

  36. derek granger on March 2, 2023 at 6:52 am

    Auto cruise and a coffee break whilst driving an RV in America springs to mind

  37. Paul Round on March 2, 2023 at 6:52 am

    So if these naturally occurring chemicals are so bad why don’t we have carpenters and joiners all dropping like flies? Last time I checked that is not happening and they are exposed to wood and fibre board being cut releasing large amounts of these chemicals constantly together with all the VOCs from paint, varnish and other treatments. I suspect there is more to the Guardian story than air quality, the whole thing sounds very fishy.

  38. Nicholas Gledhill on March 2, 2023 at 6:53 am

    Just about to buy my first Medite MR MDF sheets for my campervan conversion. Great videos and superbly presented. Thank you 🙂

  39. Georgina Collymore on March 2, 2023 at 6:53 am

    I’m glad I came across this video as I’m in a dilema. We had a loft conversion done early this year and the builders made a built in wardrobe for us from MDF. We left it for two months as we noticed the off gassing smell that is formaldehyde. But the smell never seemed to go. So we painted over it with MDF primer then eggshell 2 coats of each. It was fine during the summer months. But now it has started smelling again of formaldehyde. Now we don’t know what to do our options are perhaps to sand the paint off this will cause obviously more exposure to the wood dust or we will have to get the lot stripped out. Not sure what we would replace it with. Any help would be much appreciated.

  40. John Summerfield Photographer on March 2, 2023 at 6:54 am

    When I was a teenager, Dad had some sheep. Somehow, they got footrot, and the farm was quarantined. Dad had two choices. Killing and burning didn’t appeal, so we trimmed their hooves and bathed them regularly in a formaldehyde solution,
    The sheep recovered, quarantine was lifted.

  41. Looee HG on March 2, 2023 at 6:54 am

    Brilliant video Peter thanks for this , I always wear a mask while sanding, sawing etc but I might invest in some better ventilation in my underground workshop.

  42. Farm Cat on March 2, 2023 at 6:56 am

    I would not trust a low-price electronic air quality meter. Valid Environmental monitoring is done with calibrated equipment using EPA or other regulatory-standard methods. This is done with highly accurate equipment that measures more than one compound; you can see all you are exposed to. Electronic meters sensors sniff for a single compound, and the measurements lack scientific validity.

  43. John Summerfield Photographer on March 2, 2023 at 6:56 am

    In the 70s, GF and I married, had a house built, and had a family, in Canberra.

    Canberra gets a little chilly, and we were on bottled gas. A bottle lasted, I think, a week.

    There were some businesses offering to insulate homes, by pumping some foam stuff into the walls. we had one around, he did his thing, and coincidentally, we went on holiday to estern Australia for a few months. That might be when we went to Coral Bay for a couple of weeks.

    We returned home, and found our house much warmer, and our gas consumption dropped to about one bottle a year.. The gas supplier thought we must have switched to electricity.

    Time passed, I got a jb in Melbourn and we moved on, in due course we sold the house.

    Then there was some fuss and bother about foam insulation and formaldehyde and the fumes irritating people’s throats and lungs, and words about cancer.

    We had no problems, perhaps leaving the house vacant cleared any fumes, perhaps we were more tolerant than most, perhaps we were just lucky, perhaps ou supplier used a better product.

  44. PS Custom Made on March 2, 2023 at 6:56 am

    Oh bugger! I’m only a hobby guy but 95+% of what i make is natural Australian hardwoods(plantation).
    Sooo that looks like the end of my work😁. And all those toys I have will become hood ornaments. And of course trees, being a naturally occurring thing, it also means I should never again go for a walk in the bush(Forrest? For you guys). When will it end!
    And I’m also 64 YO, so there is no hope for me. I have already lived with lead based paints during my time🍺
    Great Video, thanks Peter

  45. Amandeep Karir on March 2, 2023 at 6:57 am

    I am confused by this. I understand cutting, leaving it bare, sanding it down will release the toxins. However if you seal this and paint it then will it still release the toxins? When you seal it then surely it will keep in all the dust and toxins as they remain compact behind the paint; unless dented or cut again or dropped.

  46. ANDREW PREDETH on March 2, 2023 at 6:57 am

    This topic has just come up on the “I like to make stuff” group on FB (Yes, “Hi I’m Bob” group) so have sent them the link to this video, so they can have a look. Just in case you get an uptick in views on this particular video!

  47. My Growth Rings on March 2, 2023 at 6:59 am

    So interesting. Thanks for all the info, Peter. Scott

  48. Harlan Barnhart on March 2, 2023 at 7:00 am

    I once bought cheap made in China plywood. Cutting on the table saw burned my eyes to the point I wanted goggles.

  49. James Bryce on March 2, 2023 at 7:02 am

    Interesting story. I used to work in a factory making MDF and Particleboard, the formaldehyde is part of the resin used to bind the wood chips and fibres under heat and pressure.

  50. Learn A Lick A Day on March 2, 2023 at 7:06 am

    Hey Peter great vid. I recently finished making audio absorbers for my home studio and the front panels are made of MDF. 16 of them. They cover most the wall in the room.The front and the sides were painted with waterbased paint. 2 coats. There are small holes we made across the panels so we get better sound absorption. Those were not painted. Too many of them and hard to get the paint in there 😀 Anyhow now that the project is finished the whole room smells funny. Like new furniture. Wood and glue kinda smell. I am worried it might be the MDF offgassing, no? I am keeping the windows open all the time but all this "going down the formaldehyde internet rabbit-hole"gave me a scare. Maybe I should get rid of the MDF panels altogether??? I remember in 2011 I bought an IKEA workdesk and had to keep the windows fully open for two weeks for the smell to evaporate. What do you think?

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