Expert Advice on Green Buildings

Formaldehyde Free Flooring: Is Soybond A Good Choice for Indoor Air Quality?


Do soy based adhesives that really work and what should I consider?


Say a product contains Formaldehyde these days and people cringe... and for good reason. While it’s extremely useful as a cleaning chemical, its presence in urea and phenol-formaldehyde resins used as adhesives has also been shown to cause environmental health problems from eye irritation to cancer. As many readers already know, this is the premise behind several LEED credits, must most specifically BD+C EQc4.1 – Low-Emitting Adhesives and Sealants.

Smith & Fong (S&F) are one of the most respected names in bamboo plywood and bamboo flooring as well as a range of flooring and plywood products derived from palms. They offer the world’s only formaldehyde-free FSC-certified bamboo and the company’s FloorScore certified flooring and IndoorAdvantage Gold certified plywood are found in sustainable built environments worldwide.

So it only makes sense that their next step would be a more sustainable method of sticking all that Plyboo together. Products containing soy are becoming more and more prevalent in our consumer culture, so it only makes sense that the manufacturing realm would follow.

Soybond, which is trademarked by S&F and was developed in conjunction with Ashland, Inc, was first released in November of 2009 and according to the company’s timeline should be included in all Plyboo plywood and flooring production currently. That means zero-VOCs for both the consumer and the fabricating workers.

Formulated specifically for bamboo, this soy-based adhesive has excellent mechanical properties that compete well with chemical-based alternatives, but offer advantages in indoor air quality, workplace environmental safety and ease of disposal. Soybond really lives up to its name, as it contains no less than 60% soy. And is an exceptional product when considering the entire lifecycle: an organic-based adhesive that will break down better (the United Soybean Board states that soy-hydrolyzate and soy-flour adhesives do not require hazardous waste disposal).

Soy-based adhesives aren’t necessarily new news though, like other vegetable-based glues they were being used as early as the 1920’s. But like those other glues they were water-soluable and didn’t provide the durability associated with manufacturer and fabricator expectations. Oregon State University in Corvallis associate professor Kaichang Li is commonly credited with development of the modern soy adhesive in 2005.

Other soybean-derived wood adhesive products include Soyad, developed through Heartland Resource Technologies and the Iowa Soybean Promotion Board and PRF/Soy 2000, utilized at Hampton Affiliates’ Willamina, Ore., finger-joint mill to turn what would become waste wood scraps into engineered lumber, increasing the fiber efficiency from logs by 1% for overall increased savings.

Soy-based products take another angle with Soy-it paint and adhesive stripper and SoyClean Adhesive and Mastic remover, both available for purchase online.

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