MDF (what's the deal with urea formaldehyde)

I’m prepareing to build my own stick, researching materials for the housing I see a lot of nice sticks being built from Medium Density Fibreboard (MDF). But I also read MDF contains urea formaldehyde which is somewhat toxic and shouldn’t be inhailed, especially in cases when cutting or shaping the material (when a fair amount of dust may be produced). Also it appears low levels of urea formaldehyde are constantly released from MDF surfaces, and thus the final product should be completely painted and or sealed in some other manner to reduce that factor.

My question is… how bad is urea formaldehyde? Has anyone run into any health issues from it? And what have people used, if any, for that final sealing process.

if there were issues with mdf i’m sure someone would have made a big deal about it over the years… and theres been nothing.

if you are that worried just paint the shit and use formica over the paint.

Sars 2!

Unless you’re snorting the sawdust, I’m pretty sure you’ll be okay… I’ve had mdf shelving in my shop for years, and I’m only moderately retarded :looney:


dunno about mdf, but there has been big deals made about formaldehyde, that’s why Ikea came under scrutiny some time back.

gogo cheap high end furniture made from shit material.

My sticks are made form MDF, I wore a mask when doing the sawing and routing work just to be safe. I use spraypaint to cover the wood, but I really wouldn’t worry too much about sealing, just be careful with the sawdust.

EDIT: found this if you’re interested

For a second, I thought you were saying that you wore a mask when actually using the stick to play, lol.

the thread title looks like it was started by Jerry Seinfeld

^^ Now that would be funny. Maybe I should try it to scare people?

I use a mask when sawing, but not because of threat from chemical infection. I wear a mask because I don’t think sawdust is that great for the lungs in general…

I’m pretty sure MDF smells like cookies when sawing it, too…I love that smell.

I just built two sticks using MDF. I wore a mask about half the time during cutting/routing. I would have wore it the whole time but after so long the sweaty-hot-breath buildup in the mask gets hard to bare.

I had a fan set-up nearby to blow the dust away from me as much as possible though. Cutting is NOTHING compared to routing. Routing puts out un-imaginable amounts of sawdust.

Either way, I’m fairly sure the health issues involved with it only apply if you use it in poorly ventilated areas or if you’re a carpenter who works with it for many years of your life. Building a stick or two is most likely harmless.

Yeah chemistry!

This is urea formaldehyde

It is used in many products, some of which are mentioned here:

As you will read from the above site its in many things which also get used in other sticks such as plywoods, but its concentration is highest in MDF which is what makes it a ‘health risk’.

The reason its a risk is because as it slowly decomposes it releases formaldehyde which is toxic to the body. If you want to know more about it you can find chemical properties and other information here. This site is for a chemical supply company and of course there are many variations of formaldehyde that can be purchased, like different concentrations and such(some chemist are lazy and dont want to dilute to the right concentrations). The link is for analytical grade formaldehyde which is pretty much the best you are going to get:

Now if someone can find a source that has done studies on how much formaldehyde is released in a certain amount of time or what the concentration of urea formaldehyde in MDF is, then you would be able to get a better idea of just how much of a risk it is. I am guessing its only going to be a risk if you are working with it for a living, or snorting MDF saw dust. And if you want to be sure to cover you tracks when working with it then just do a good paint job.

If I were to build/buy a custom stick, I would probably make/demand it to be made out real wood.

lol. i think the same thing. something kinda chocolate almost. i have no doubt its somewhat toxic - but it does have an interesting affect on the senses.

i have never worn a mask - and i think i came out ok (we’ll know in a few years). one thing to consider is that the “sawdust” is MUCH finer than when using typical wood. the stuff is like powder. it will get airborne & get all over everything.

One can purchase formaldehyde-free MDF.

i had an allergic reaction when cutting MDF. my eyes closed up for about 1 hour. at first i thought it was just because i was tired, until i tried to open them. i had protective goggles and a face mask on too. :sad:

It’s not MDF that is particularly bad; it’s the dust. Prolonged inhalation is very bad for you because it contains carcinogens (cancer-causing elements). If you have a shelf or something you’re fine. If you’re going to be working with MDF a lot, I suggest you buy a respirator. This is NOT the same thing as a mask. Those cheapo masks honestly do very little in the way of things you would actually want to wear a mask for.

A respirator actually has filters that block much smaller particles, like those released from MDF and other toxic chemicals, as opposed to a mask.

The problems with carcinogens are not just limited to MDF though. There are plenty of species of wood that have similar problems, like types of Cocobolo (which a LOT of people have allergic reactions to).

If you are working in an open area or with a good dust collection system, you probably won’t need a mask, but I’m guessing you are an amateur woodworker so just don’t work in enclosed spaces and don’t snort that stuff.


yeah as previously stated - MDF DUST is the killer.
i have heard it being called ‘the modern asbestos.’

that shit will stick to everything.
i cut up 6 2400mm x 1200mm sheets for my 2 cabs.

there was dust FUCKING EVERYWHERE - it was all over the floor like sand, but also on the walls and ROOF!!

i used a dust mask (in hindsight i should have bought a respirator) and goggles.
each day i was covered in the stuff and it took a HOT shower and scrubbing to clean up.

from now on i will pay the local timber guys to cnc cut my cabs.
saves me getting cancer :stuck_out_tongue:

I’m willing to bet that someone that drinks diet soda sweetened with aspartame ends up getting more formaldehyde in their bodies than someone who cuts the occasional MDF.
Not to downplay the dangers of MDF. I always wear a dust mask when cutting the stuff and I’m probably going to use a respirator from now on. I’m just sayin’ that there are many other things we ingest that are bad for us and we don’t even know it. MDF dust, with proper precautions taken, is probably not one to worry about…unless, of course, your job has you breathing it everyday.