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Re: sawdust

I'm not exactly sure what you mean by urea formaldehyde.  Urea (which is 
very similar in structure to formaldehyde) is a solid.  But, if it 
reacted with something in the environment to form some sort of salt--and 
urea is a fairly reactive compound--then the urea salt could be absorbed 
through the cows' skin.

Formaldehyde is a gas at room temperature.  Even if it is complexed 
somehow to another compound, as Mark implied in his message, a certain 
amount will volatilize over time.  Once it's in the air, the cows will 
breathe it and it will be absorbed through their lungs.  Of course, the 
amount that is volatizing may be *very* small, in which case it isn't a 
concern.  The cabinet maker might be able to answer this question.  If 
urea formaldehyde is something they buy, not the result of a chemical 
reaction that occurs during processing,  there should be warnings on the 
containers if it is a an inhalant hazard.  Of course, neither the 
manufacturer or OSHA expect anyone to sleep with the stuff.

It would probably be a good idea to call the company that makes the urea 
formaldehyde for the cabinet maker and find out what it's what it reacts 
with and what it forms when it reacts.  Of course, if they get wind of 
what you're doing, they might start worrying about liability and tell you 
to stop doing it.  If it is some sort of formaldehyde-urea complex, find 
out at what rate the formaldehyde is dissociating from the complex and if 
it would pose any sort of hazard to a person or animal exposed to it for 
8-12 hours a day.  (Keep in mind that any sort of warning that has to do 
with people may not apply to full grown cows.  Cows are about 5 times the 
size of a person and a lot chemical exposure limits are based on body 
weight.  Of course, there is still the farmer to worry about, any any 
calves that might be exposed.  Again, keep in mind that exposure limits 
for a growing calf would have to be lower, even based on body weight, 
because they're developing.) 

One other point.  It wasn't clear from the message if the urea 
formaldehyde was the only chemical present in the sawdust.  If there are 
any volatile chemicals present in the sawdust, they will evaporate into 
the environment, and anyone or any cow breathing the air around the 
sawdust will breathe in the volatile chemicals which will then be 
absorbed into the bloodstream through the lungs.  If this is a concern, 
one way to get around this without having to stop using the sawdust for 
beding would be to leave the sawdust outside for a while to let the 
chemicals evaporate.  Of course, the farmer might have to stir up the 
pile every couple of days to make sure all the residues evapaorate.  This 
might become more work than he is willing to do even for free bedding.

Well, we don't have any laywers to warn me about anything, so, take this 
for what it is:  free advice.  As we all know, ya get what ya pay for.

Good luck,


Tellus Institute
11 Arlington St.
Boston, MA 02116
tel: (617) 266-5400, fax: (617) 266-8303
dzinkl@tellus.org, http://www.tellus.org
(note change from 'tellus.com'.  '.com' is still usable)