After train derailment, hardwood industry touts health benefits

PITTSBURGH -- Hardwood industry leaders issued statements touting the benefits of real wood products over highly processed, wood-look alternatives. The statements come in response to the recent train derailment and chemical spill that took place in East Palestine, Ohio. The unfortunate incident raised questions about the effects of chemicals—and the products made from them—in relation to our health and environment.

Did you know hardwood floors and surfaces are hypoallergenic? It's true, and your family can breathe easy! They won't harbor allergens, microorganisms, or harmful pesticides that can be tracked in from outside. They also minimize the accumulation of dust, dirt, mold, and animal dander, which improves the indoor air quality in your home. And because Real American Hardwood products are all natural, they won't emit VOCs and other chemicals that can impact your family's health.

When a train carrying hazardous materials derailed on February 3, toxic chemicals were released, including vinyl chloride, which has been linked to cancer of the liver, brain, lungs, and blood. While residents living near the derailment had no choice about their exposure, millions of homeowners unknowingly put their families at risk when they bring plastic products into their homes. This is because vinyl chloride is used to make a variety of plastics, including polymer polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a primary component used to make resilient and vinyl flooring, cabinets, doors, window frames, and mouldings, as well as other household items.

"Real wood products do not jeopardize human health or the environment," says Michael Martin, president and CEO of the National Wood Flooring Association. "They are made using natural materials that can be regrown, and that contribute to the overall health of our planet and its residents."

Trees are a natural resource that grow in a factory called a forest, using a renewable source of energy called the sun. "During their growth cycle, trees take in carbon dioxide, releasing oxygen and using the carbon to grow," says Tom Inman, president of Appalachian Hardwood Manufacturers, Inc., "but what many people don't know is that even when trees are harvested, they continue to store carbon in the products made using them. So your real wood floors, real wood cabinets, real wood trim and mouldings, real wood furniture, even your real wood picture frames, continue to store carbon during their entire service life. And you can feel it; about half their weight is stored carbon."

When it comes to harvesting hardwood, responsible forest management is a primary goal. "Hardwood trees are an agricultural crop, just like corn or soy beans," says Dallin Brooks, executive director of the National Hardwood Lumber Association. "They just have a longer growth cycle, typically 40–60 years, and must be harvested before they begin to die." Once that cycle begins, trees no longer produce oxygen, and the lumber becomes unusable, as well as a fire hazard. Clearing the canopy also gives younger trees an opportunity to receive the sunlight they need to grow to maturity. In fact, responsible forest management has led to significant growth of hardwood forests. In the United States, more than two trees are regrown for every one that is harvested.

Linda Jovanovich, executive vice president of the Hardwood Manufacturers Association, states that turning hardwood logs into lumber is an efficient process utilizing every part of a log, including the bark, twigs, branches, and sawdust. "These materials are used to power boilers that help run both the sawmill and the kilns used to dry the lumber, or are manufactured into other items like wood pellets for fuel or animal bedding," she says. In addition, manufacturing lumber uses fewer resources (water, energy, etc.) than other building materials like plastic, steel, or concrete.

If your family's health is a concern, the Environmental Protection Agency finds that hardwood floors improve indoor air quality. Hardwood floors do not harbor microorganisms or pesticides that can be tracked in from outdoors, and they minimize the accumulation of dust, mold, and animal dander. Conversely, plastic floors, carpet, furniture, etc., off-gas toxic chemicals that can be harmful to your family.

To learn more about the health and environmental implications of home product choices, visit

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