WTS Newsletter - September 2015

The Wood Technology Society
31 Jul 2015

WARNING - Terpenes in wood may be damaging your health and never peel oranges indoors again!

prEN 16516 SCOPE

'This European Standard specifies a horizontal reference method for the determination of emissions of regulated dangerous substances from construction products into indoor air. This method is applicable to volatile organic compounds, semi-volatile organic compounds, and volatile aldehydes. It is based on the use of a test chamber and subsequent analysis of the organic compounds by GC-MS or HPLC'.

First, a question for all of you wood technologists out there and for anyone else for that matter with an interest in the continued use, unhindered, of wood in construction:
Are natural extractives, in their pre-extracted form, i.e. still in the wood, classified as 'regulated dangerous substances'.
Should we be worried about this? I will let you be the judge of that once you have read the following.

From the perspective of producers of solid wood and wood products with no added substances it would appear that the issue is one of the attitude experts towards natural volatile organic compounds - VOCs. With the desire for increasingly energy-efficient buildings comes the need for effective air tightness which some believe will render harmful to health such smells as were once enjoyed as olfactory delights, chief amongst those being the smell of freshly sawn wood and most particularly pine. And with the introduction of CLT, we have never before lived in such close proximity to so much wood!

The smell of pine, in part, is owing to the presence of terpenes which, when extracted by means of destructive distillation, provide us with the solvent, beloved of artists down the centuries, turpentine. And if working for too long in close proximity to turpentine is bad for you then surely it must follow, some would have us believe, that the smell of it from the wood, in an air-tight environment, must be equally detrimental to human health! If it is, then isn't the answer to ensure sufficient air changes which can be easily achieved using heat-recovery ventilators, which will also, as if by magic, increase a building's energy efficiency. QED!

However, with all CEN Standards development comes the belief that the same requirements must be applied to everything so now naturally-occurring substances, alongside which we have lived for countless generations and survived with seemingly no ill-effects on the masses, are now being lumped together, under the auspices of CEN/TC351, with all man-made substances for which COSHH regulations are imperative.

I have heard it said that for wood to be used in buildings it will need to be coated with a barrier product to prevent emissions to indoor air of the natural VOCs the irony of that being that those man-made barrier preparations will also need to be tested, as applied, to determine their level of emissions of VOCs to indoor air!

Terpenes are one of the most widespread groups of natural products. They have many different functions in plants and animals, but for food they are mainly important as aroma components. The aroma of for example citrus, cinnamon and many other spices is characterised by several terpenes. Common Terpenes (and terpenoids) are limonene and citral (both in lemons), camphor, pinene (pine trees), eugenol (cloves), anethol (fennel, anise), thymol (thyme, oregano), geraniol (roses) and menthol. More information

As we have been living with raw wood for so long, if there is a problem it would surely have manifested itself by now. So if it is believed there will be a problem, at what level of concentration in indoor air of naturally occurring VOCs is it believed that ill-effects will become apparent? Or is it a case of testing for testing's sake? You decide!
And committees are told to consider SMEs when developing CEN Standards!

Dr Carl Dobianer - Presentation to CEN/TC351 Plenary, March 2015 'Peeling oranges produces more emissions than the entire wood material' See also

Together we can (help to) ... save the planet - yes, but now it's 'official' - and grow the industry

We have, of course been telling them all that for decades already.

On 27 February 2014, the European Economic and Social Committee, acting under Rule 29(2) of its Rules of Procedure, decided to draw up an own-initiative opinion on the 'Contribution of the Woodworking sector to the carbon balance'.

You can download the report but here are a few points from their 'Conclusions and recommendations'
1.1. In order to maximise the benefits offered by wood products in the carbon balance and to enhance the competitiveness of the European woodworking industry and its capacity to drive innovation, the European Economic and Social Committee has drawn up the following recommendations.
1.9. The EESC recognises that European and national legislation is having a big impact on the woodworking industries. For this reason, the EESC invites Member States to set up initiatives in order to promote a wood culture. Moreover, the representatives of the European woodworking industries and the European social partners should define co-ordinated national campaigns in order to give a more attractive image of the sector.

Not just a load of old rot!

In June, the BioComposites Centre at Bangor University North Wales hosted a 3-day Training school on the evaluation of mould risk in buildings and in materials. The event was held under the auspices of COST action FP 1303 'Performance of bio-based building materials'.

At the end of the school, the participants were left with a better understanding of mould fungi and of the need for testing of both current products and perhaps more importantly future bio-based products.
Read the full report from Simon Curling of the BioComposites

WTS congratulations

IOM3 recognises two of our own. Read the news article
Peter Latham FIMMM was awarded the TB Marsden Professional Medal and Keith Purcell FIMMM was honoured with the Outstanding Contribution Award.

And congratulations to four candidates (Conor Fitzpatrick, Sean Gibson, Ross Hughes, Mark McDonald) who have successfully completed their PiABC Scottish Vocational Qualification Level 2 in Merchant Supplies - Timber and their ProSkills Scottish Modern Apprenticeship. Pictured receiving their certificates from Andrew Gibson are (l-r) Conor Fitzpatrick, Ross Hughes and Sean Gibson.




WTS board meeting

The next WTS Board meeting is at Edinburgh Napier University on 24 September. This has been arranged in order to coincide with a joint evening event on 23 September, Natural Polymer Composites: The wood from the trees? with the Scottish Plastics & Rubber Association.
The technical communities within IOM3 cover a plethora of materials interests with many synergies between sectors and on which nanotechnology will, undoubtedly, increasingly impinge. All communities are being encouraged to develop a cross-community involvement, the evening event with SPRA being the first of, what we will be endeavouring to achieve, many in the years ahead.

Observer members

The WTS has in the past (as was the former IWSc) been, and likely still is, accused of not doing much that might be classed as meaningful. At this point, it is perhaps worth remembering that all WTS board members are volunteers and if very fortunate have approval of their employers to undertake that service. As an Institute, we have come through some turbulent times and it has long been realised that there is a great need to turn around the apathy that has been growing in recent years.

As an observer member, for which you will need to be a member of IOM3, there would be a requirement to attend at least one meeting a year and maybe contribute some good ideas in support of our strategy and objectives. Unlike a full board member, you would not be committing yourself to 'getting your hands dirty'!

If you feel that you have something yourself of value to contribute and might like to become involved, please contact Paul Latham, WTS Secretary.

Raise an issue; send in some news

Is there anything in particular you would wish to see discussed by the WTS board? If there is then please get in touch with us with details. Topics raised and discussed will be reported back via the newslwtter. Also, if you have any news please also send us the details as we are always on the lookout for newsletter content.

David Woodbridge - a life in wood science

Jim Coulson pens a few lines on David Woodbridge and his invaluable contribution over the years to education and to the former IWSc/WTS. Read more

Did you know?

Did you notice? If you have managed to read this far in previous newsletters, you will have noticed that i have been including really interesting items on where and how wood has been, for millennia in some cases and still is variously, used and, just for the love of it, simply collected. This time it is boats and it's a two-up bumper issue! So, when were the first boats built? Read on

Boat Building Academy - Lyme Regis

Experts at the Boat Building Academy teach the widest range of hands-on boat building training in the world, specialising in composite, modern and traditional wooden construction, restoration and repair. Students on the flagship 38 week course gain practical experience by working on a wider range of construction types than found in most boatyards or on any other boat building course. The intensive and highly practical courses vary in length from 2 days to 38 weeks. On short courses people may have the opportunity to work on their own boat. Website

History of boats

The oldest recovered boat in the world is the 3 metre long Pesse canoe constructed around 8,000 BCE but more elaborate craft existed even earlier. A rock carving in Azerbaijan dating from ~10,000 BC shows a reed boat manned by about 20 paddlers. However, the very first sea worthy boats were most probably built long before that, about 800,000 years ago, not by man but by his predecessor Homo erectus, a smart naked ape. Website

...and finally

Are you a crossword doer? And have you perhaps completed the thematic puzzle now appearing in Materials World? If so, you might be interested to learn that the setter (Anobium) is our very own Jim Coulson who has now been setting crosswords for major newspapers for forty years.

Happy sailing! Or boat building!

John Park
Contact John Park