Greensboro, NC – Columbia Forest Products announces a milestone – the production of its 40 millionth hardwood plywood panel featuring its innovative formaldehyde-free PureBond technology.

The company has converted its seven hardwood plywood plants to formaldehyde-free manufacturing processes, using a patented technology cooperatively developed by Columbia, the College of Forestry at Oregon State University and Hercules Incorporated. The process was awarded a Presidential Green Chemistry prize in 2007 from the United States EPA (Environmental Protection Agency).

Biomimicry – The Origin Of The PureBond Innovation
As the Pacific Ocean swirled around him, a question rushed into Dr. Kaichang Li’s head:

How do mussels keep their grip on rocks that are constantly pounded by waves?

Dr. Li, a professor at Oregon State University’s College of Forestry, found that mussels secrete proteins known as byssal threads, which provide superior strength and extraordinary flexibility. His curiosity led to groundbreaking research – funded by Columbia Forest Products and others – based in the principles of biomimicry, which studies nature and then imitates its designs and processes to solve human problems.

Li discovered that soy proteins can be modified to perform similarly to byssal threads. And not only did they deliver phenomenal adhesion, they also offered exceptional water resistance. This breakthrough led to PureBond, proving that enhanced environmental quality and increased product performance can go hand in hand.

The Problem With Formaldehyde
Urea formaldehyde (UF) is used in the majority of hardwood plywood and composite panels and has been classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), part of the World Health Organization, as “carcinogenic to humans.” Currently there are few no-added-urea-formaldehyde (NAUF) alternatives to UF-based adhesives on the market, and all are significantly higher in cost.

Proud Of Our Innovation
“PureBond panels are cost-competitive with urea formaldehyde-manufactured plywood, and they offer better moisture resistance,” Columbia CEO Brad Thompson said. “This is good news for our employees, our customers and our end-use customers. We worked for several years to develop a resin that would allow us to migrate away from formaldehyde, while achieving a better level of performance, and the PureBond system is the winning recipe.

“It’s especially rewarding when we look back and consider that over 40 million of these PureBond panels are now in the marketplace – being used across North America in people’s cabinets, furniture and fixtures – helping all these people reduce their exposure to formaldehyde,” Thompson said.

Legislation Addressing The Issue – In California
In April of 2007, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) passed what the Los Angeles Times said were “the world's toughest controls on toxic formaldehyde in wood products widely used in kitchen cabinets, countertops and other construction.” These regulations began to be phased in January, 2009.

This means that any company that manufactures or ships manufactured wood products into California, has to comply with these restricted formaldehyde emission limits. Columbia’s PureBond veneer-core hardwood plywood panels have no added urea formaldehyde and are certified as compliant with CARB’s most stringent Phase 2 emission limits, today – over a year ahead of schedule.

Legislation Addressing The Issue – Federal Level
More recently on July 7, 2010, President Barack Obama signed a bill limiting the amount of formaldehyde in hardwood plywood, particleboard and medium-density fiberboard. The Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Products Act amends the Toxic Substances Control Act to make the formaldehyde emission standard contained in the CARB regulations applicable to hardwood plywood, medium-density fiberboard and particleboard sold, supplied, offered for sale, or manufactured in the United States.

The bipartisan legislation introduced by U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Mike Crapo (R-ID) back in September of 2009 sought to protect consumers by establishing national health standards for formaldehyde in composite wood products, which would apply to both domestic products and foreign imports.

“I’ve always believed that the first responsibility of government is to protect its citizens,” said Klobuchar. “High levels of formaldehyde are a health threat. This legislation is pro-industry, pro-consumer, pro-environment and pro-public health.”

The new law directs the EPA to implement regulations that ensure compliance equivalent to compliance with the California standard, including its provisions relating to labeling, chain of custody requirements, sell-through provisions, ultralow emitting formaldehyde resins, no-added formaldehyde-based resins, finished goods, third-party testing and certification, auditing and reporting of third-party certifiers, recordkeeping, and enforcement.

About Columbia Forest Products
Founded in 1957, Columbia Forest Products is North America’s largest manufacturer of hardwood plywood and hardwood veneer. Columbia’s decorative interior veneers and panels are used in cabinetry, furniture, architectural millwork and commercial fixtures.

Employee-owned and based in Greensboro, North Carolina, Columbia employs more than 2,000 and operates facilities in locations throughout the United States and Canada, and an operational network which spans the globe.

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