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Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Environmentally Friendly Low VOC Wood Glue, Who Knew?

Good things come to those who blog, or in my case, those who are lucky enough to win a contest because I won a nifty tool bag and two bottles of environmentally friendly wood glue called EcoGlue Premium Wood Adhesive from The Handyguy’s Podcast. Thank you Brian and Paul, you're the best!

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Now I have to admit that not until I got the bottles of low VOC EcoGlue in my hot little hands did I ever think about the ecological or environmental ramifications of glue. It never crossed my mind. So I wanted to know what made EcoGlue so special. Well, it turns out that most wood glues contain Volatile Organic Compounds, which are also know as VOCs. In the case of wood glue, it’s generally formaldehyde.

Um, OK. That made me ask myself, “What actually is a VOC? What does it do? How much exposure to it is bad? And why the heck should I care?”



Here is what the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has to say about volatile organic compounds:
"Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids. VOCs include a variety of chemicals, some of which may have short- and long-term adverse health effects. Concentrations of many
VOCs are consistently higher indoors (up to ten times higher) than outdoors. VOCs are emitted by a wide array of products numbering in the thousands.Examples include: paints and lacquers, paint strippers, cleaning supplies, pesticides, building materials and furnishings, office equipment such as copiers and printers, correction fluids and carbonless copy paper, graphics and craft materials including glues and adhesives, permanent markers, and photographic solutions.

Organic chemicals are widely used as ingredients in household products. Paints, varnishes, and wax all contain organic solvents, as do many cleaning, disinfecting, cosmetic, degreasing, and hobby products. Fuels are made up of organic chemicals. All of these products can release organic compounds while you are using them, and, to some degree, when they are stored."
OK so the EPA defines what VOCs are. The list of compounds that are considered VOCs are too many to list in this post and frankly my high school chemistry isn’t up to snuff to determine or recommend how much or how little of each compound is considered an acceptable or detrimental amount to your health. Unfortunately, in my research for this post, I couldn’t find a creditable scientific source that gave me any clear indications either. All of the scientific sources I checked for this article couched the amounts and effects of VOCs by using phrases like “may or may not” “could or could not” “might” “some.” Clearly more scientific testing and research needs to be conducted to determine how much or how little of an exposure to a VOC has a direct and definite cause and effect relationship to human health.


Now I’m not ready to totally discount that VOCs aren't something that I want in my house, especially if I had asthma or migraine suffers or people in my home with other breathing problems/illnesses. However, the “may or may not” short- or long-term adverse health effects (in my research ranging from an occasional slight headache to possibly causing cancer) is a lot of wiggle room for whether something is considered entirely evil all the time, in all amounts and for any length of exposure. In other words, kids, I’m 100% sure on this issue myself. I don’t have enough creditable information to make a recommendation to you on whether avoiding VOCs in all ways, shapes, and form is a good (or bad) thing or not. So while it’s something I’m going to try avoiding when and where I can because I do get migraines, I’m not comfortable telling you what to do. Your mileage may vary on this issue.

Let’s get back to the glue, shall we?

So what do VOCs do in wood glue anyway? The Handyguys have a very succinct answer: VOCs make glue stink. Interesting. So I tested it. The traditional wood I tested stunk. Bad. The EcoGlue Premium Wood only gave off a faint odor. It reminded me of the smell of white school glue. Not bad. Not too bad at all.

I can’t believe that I sniffed glue for you people.

You’re welcome.

Anyway, the EcoGlue passed my nonscientific sniff test. The Handyguys took care of testing how well the EcoGlue bonded two pieces of wood together. I encourage you to check out their podcast because they tested it Mythbusters style! They glued two boards together with a conventional wood glue and the EcoGlue. Then they put the variety of heavy items (including a drill press. Oh to have your very own drill press!) onto the glued joints to test if the bond would fail. It didn’t. In fact, in their test the EcoGlue actually made a stronger bond between the two boards than the traditional wood glue.


So regardless of the EcoGlue being a low VOC glue (it contains less than 1% VOC) I’d definitely use it because it creates a stronger bond over the traditional wood glue counterpart. Just like a good wood glue is supposed to do.

Now if only I can keep from gluing my fingers together when I use it for a project. That would be something!

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