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 reas