DATA plays down MDF scare

7th November 1997 at 00:00
The Design and Technology Association has warned schools against making a knee-jerk response to recent press stories about the dangers of medium density fibreboard.

Following public callsfor a ban on MDF, DATA chief executive Andrew Breckon said: "We have no evidence from Health and Safety Executive or the Education Advisory Committee which leads us to recommend MDF be removed from use in schools."

A versatile wood substitute, MDF has been dubbed the "asbestos of the Nineties" by some experts, as it releases a fine dust when sawn or sanded, which could cause cancer and damage the throat lungs and heart. But following the first stage of a major investigation, the HSE said there was no urgent need to ban MDF.

And Mr Breckon pointed out that even if natural wood was substituted for MDF, hardwood dust is already classified in the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Act as a carcinogen, and softwood is also a suspected carcinogen.

In the wake of the scare, DATA has issued its own safety advice. It says schools should ensure that: * the teaching environment is kept scrupulously clean to reduce dust * there is good quality and effective dust extraction wherever machining of MDF and other timbers takes place * rooms are well ventilated when anyone is working MDF using hand tools * rotary sanding discs are not used if there is no dust extraction.

DATA, 16 Wellesbourne House, Walton Road, Wellesbourne, Warwickshire CV35 9JB. Tel: 01789 470007

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