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Composite wood in cheap cabinetry

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In 2004, the International Agency for Research on Cancer re-classified formaldehyde as a "known human carcinogen." Manufacturers of composite wood panels, used in cheap cabinetry and most cabinet interiors, frequently use formaldehyde. Besides being carcinogenic, the Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) emitted by the formaldehyde in cabinetry can cause allergic reactions and irritate your respiratory system.

Certified green cabinetry

In recent years, government and non-governmental organizations like the following have brought the formaldehyde threat under some regulation.

  • The Composite Panel Association (CPA) ensures that particle board and MDF meet low-emission requirements created by the American National Standards Institute.

  • The Environmental Stewardship Program (ESP) was developed by the Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers' Association. The ESP certifies cabinetry manufacturers based on a variety of criteria related to environmental health, including VOC emission levels.

The Green Cabinet Source reports that MasterBrand Cabinets was awarded the ESP certification. MasterBrand manufactures the following well-respected cabinet lines:

  • Aristokraft
  • Diamond
  • Diamond Reflections
  • Decorá
  • Schrock
  • Kemper
  • Thomasville
  • Kitchen Classics
  • Somersby
  • Omega and HomeCrest

With so many styles and price points, choosing green cabinetry has become easier--and more affordable. Look for these certifications and brands, whether you choose to buy custom, mid-range or cheap cabinetry.

How to decrease VOCs from cheap cabinetry

According to the CPA Technical Manual on VOC Emission Barrier Effects, a laminate barrier can limit up to 95 percent of VOCs. Thick laminates provide excellent protection, and they look nice.

The risks associated with composites have complicated kitchen renovation projects. However, awareness of new certifications now allow cost-conscious consumers to enjoy the relatively low-costs associated with composite wood paneling--without adding a the risk of health complications to your budget.


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