Is MDF Safe? Learn Why MDF is Safe and Sustainable

is mdf safe?
Is MDF safe or is MDF toxic?

The short answer is yes, it is safe.  Though there are lots of different sources of MDF and not all use the same ingredients which might lead to some problems. Currently, the MDF being produced in the US is well above any standard for safe products.

What Exactly is MDF? 

MDF stands for medium density fiberboard, and there’s a lot of discussion about the stuff these days. Since we use MDF a great deal in our production facility and in many of our products, we know that questions about MDF’s safety and sustainability are very important. They are also important to us.  So, today, we’re going to answer these important questions about MDF and show why MDF is one of the safest and most sustainable wood products on the market today. 

According to the composite panel association, MDF is defined as “…a composite panel product consisting of cellulosic fibers combined with a synthetic resin or other suitable bonding system and joined together under heat and pressure.” In common speak, it’s wood panels created essentially from wood shavings and sawdust. That might make it sound cheap and low-grade, but don’t be so quick to judge. MDF is very strong and stable, and is free from wood grain and knots. These features make it particularly useful for residential construction and home decor, where precise machining, detailed patterns, and smooth finishes are essential.

Despite these valuable features, many are concerned about MDF’s potential health risks. Let’s dive in and see why MDF is one of the safest and most sustainable wood products on the market today. 

MDF is Safe

The main concern regarding the health risks of MDF is the use of urea-formaldehyde adhesives as the bonding agent during the creation of the panels. Formaldehyde has been thought to have cancer risks. However, studies linking cancer to formaldehyde have not been conclusive. In fact, formaldehyde is naturally produced by plants, humans, and animals as part of the metabolic process. 

Even so, most MDF production companies, including the one that we use, have moved away from urea-formaldehyde based adhesives, opting instead for low formaldehyde alternatives. 

At ShapeStack, we only use high-quality MDF panels whose manufacturers have obtained the ECC Sustainability Standard. These are eco-certified composites that have less than a 0.11 parts per million concentration of formaldehyde. For reference, the established exposure standard for formaldehyde in the workplace is 0.50 parts per million. These ultra low formaldehyde panels meet all established environmental standards for health and safety. 

A secondary health concern regarding MDF is the dust created during production. While MDF dust can cause nose and eye irritation, this is also true for every other dust. Effective ventilation systems and proper use of dust masks can eliminate the negative side effects from MDF dust. MDF dust is not inherently more dangerous than any other dust.  This is also only a concern during the manufacturing process.  Once these products are in the home or business, the dust is no longer part of the equation.

MDF is Sustainable and Environmentally Friendly 

In addition to being safe, MDF is also very sustainable and environmentally friendly. 

Because MDF is constructed primarily from wood fiber, many wood shavings and other portions of the wood that might normally be discarded can instead be recycled into MDF production. This both reduces waste and also means a higher percentage of trees harvested are used to create valuable products, putting less strain on our forests and creating sustainable construction practices for years to come. MDF panels are some of the greenest products available!

The ECC Sustainability Standard insures that the production of MDF will remain sustainable and environmentally friendly. Today, MDF panels are carbon sinks, storing enough carbon to offset the carbon footprint from their creation. 

In addition, MDF is one of the most cost effective solutions for many construction and home decor applications. With MDF based products, consumers receive both an affordable and a high-quality product. 


Based on the information above, we can conclude that MDF is both a safe and a sustainable wood product for manufacturing.

At ShapeStack, we believe in the safety and sustainably of MDF and we are proud to use MDF to create high-quality, sustainable products. 

We’d love to hear your thoughts on MDF! Leave us a comment with any questions or concerns.

Interested in doing some more research yourself? We’ve included some links to some helpful information about MDF. 

MDF Panel Details

ECC Sustainability Standard

Formaldehyde Info


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2 thoughts on “Is MDF Safe? Learn Why MDF is Safe and Sustainable

  1. Yolande says:

    Is your MDF bonded with a plastic based resin? I’m concerned that if it is,
    then it it’ll remain unrecycled. Plastic will stay the same for thousands of years polluting the planet.

    • BrianS says:

      Thanks for the question, Yolande. The bonding agents in our MDF is a proprietary process, so I can’t know exactly what’s in it. We can only know what it is tested for after it has completed the curing process. But, most everything these days is made with synthetic glues. Natural glues just can’t stand up to the industrial uses that we have for our products today. Natural glues being things like animal glues, tar or natural rubber.

      I would say that this is different than a plastic bag, though, because the bag is all plastic and retains its shape as a bag for the entire period. The glue is very small particles and could mix into the dirt and compost without affecting anything around it. It doesn’t react or harm the earth around it, where a bag can trap a small animal and looks unsightly.

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