REVIEW OF THE HEALTH EFFECTS OF
RELEASED PARTICULATES FROM WILLAMETTE INDUSTRIES
MALVERN, HOT SPRINGS COUNTY, ARKANSAS
Willamette Industries is a medium density fiberboard (MDFB) plant located on Gifford Road, northeast of Malvern, in Hot Springs County, Arkansas. The operation was formally owned by International Paper and produced particle board. Willamette bought the site in 1982 and in 1983 began to use the facility to manufacture MDFB. MDFB and other pressed wood products are produced by combining wood pieces or chips with an adhesive and other chemicals (including urea - HCHO resins) and then pressing the mixture in hot hydraulic presses. A major concern involving MDFB is the amount of formaldehyde (HCHO) emissions that can be liberated from the product.
Between 1983 and 1995 Willamette Industries spent approximately $2,000,000 upgrading its air pollution control (APC) equipment at the Malvern site. Since 1995, Willamette has spent over $7,500,000 in response to the Arkansas Department of Pollution Control and Ecology (ADPC&E) Consent Administrative Order (CAO) LIS 95-083 to further enhance the control of fiber release from the site. APC activities carried out under the direction of this CAO included the installation of two building enclosures, three tube conveying systems, a thermal oxidizer and waste heat boiler, three rotating bed filters, and three baghouses for particulate control. It is estimated that these activities have removed 182 tons of particulates from the two operating lines in the plant that would have been released into the atmosphere before the upgrades.
Since 1990, there have been intermittent complaints from citizens living in the vicinity of the plant. The complaints focused on the release of particulates less than or equal to ten microns in diameter (PM10) that were alleged to be impregnated with urea formaldehyde (HCHO). There were also allegations of health insults resulting from exposure to the fibers. The health concerns included asthma, skin rashes, allergic reactions, irritation to the eyes, lungs, and upper respiratory tract, and inflammation of the eyes and nose. The citizens were concerned about an increased incidence of nasal cancer because of exposure to the wood fibers and urea formaldehyde.