Are Your Kitchen or Bath Cabinets Toxic?

During the ten years in which I worked as a kitchen and bath sales designer for a big-box home improvement center, all of the cabinet lines available through that company offered cabinet Building Contractor Salary options of either “all plywood” or medium density fiberboard (MDF). I learned that these are essentially the only cabinet construction types available in the United States. Customers looking for “solid wood” cabinets must either buy them from Canadian companies or have them custom-made of solid wood by a professional cabinet-maker; such alternatives are, for most people, prohibitively expensive. Therefore, unless some new construction substance has been developed over the past year, when buying cabinets in the United States market today, you will (unless you have unlimited funds) be choosing from cabinetry built of either plywood or MDF.
But how might the consideration of cabinet toxicity impact your cabinet purchase? On researching which of these United Built Homes Corporate Office materials would be best for me to recommend to my customers, I found that one objection to MDF is that it contains formaldehyde. But, guess what! plywood is made of layers (the “ply”) of wood held together by glue which also contains formaldehyde. (Looks to me like “six of one and a half-dozen of another”.) Considering that “all plywood” construction is more expensive than MDF construction, “all plywood” must at least be the stronger of the two, right? One might also expect greater strength in plywood by the fact that when it is assembled, the grain of each wood layer is set perpendicular to that of its’ neighbors. But the reality is that under conditions where MDF might have problems (excessive moisture), plywood can split or warp. Coincidentally, my kitchen cabinets came from a cabinet line which offered only MDF construction and they’ve been in use for more than ten years now without posing any problems whatsoever: no shelves bowing, no drawers sticking, no hinges coming loose, etc. Can it be possible that the MDF used in cabinets made by a cabinet company which offers both types of materials may be of an inferior grade to that used by a manufacturer offering only MDF? Wouldn’t you and I like to know? Because all-plywood cabinets are more expensive than those using MDF, that component must benefit somebody; and the winner is – the designer who is competing to get the highest sales dollar volume as well as the company he/she works for. Consequently, in the final analysis, it may be that no cabinet company any longer exists that offers only MDF construction. Only God knows!
Therefore, we must conclude that your kitchen and/or bath cabinets are, more likely than not, toxic (the only “unlikely” event is if they are effectively antiques) and that when buying new ones, you will not be able to avoid the problem. But another question comes up: isn’t just about everything in our contemporary household world toxic? And the answer is: “probably”! In fact, while recently reviewing accumulated e-mail messages in my “Inbox”, I learned from a health newsletter, dated March 14, 2011, that everyone should be advised to wear a mask when using “household glues, fingernail polish, adhesives, paint thinner, lacquer, and rubber” items because they most likely contain very toxic Toluene. Apparently, to be as safe as possible, we really should detoxify our bodies periodically; but beware, because I’ve also recently learned that this must be done very, very carefully or more harm than good might result. Again, beware! And, if you enjoy good health, be very, very thankful!

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