Zeroing in on Language, Part 2, Valuing E0

See E0 on a lot of labels, don’t you? It’s also in a lot of marketing material. And I think it has zero meaning for our industry.

For the majority of the industry, when you see an “E,” you think Europe. And you should. In most every case, a company talking about the “E” standard is implying a European standard of evaluating formaldehyde emissions. But the EU doesn’t have an E0 level. E1 is the lowest that is formally defined in common usage.

I have tried to trace the history of E0. I found an actual formal and real E0 out there, but it isn’t for what you think. From the best I can find out from my own experience, a lot of online research and chatting with a lot of testing companies and certifying bodies, “E0” is almost always a created term used by any number of groups as a marketing tool.

1. E0 being used to relate a Japanese rating to a European one.

In the old days we really had the European standards as the world standards. Then the Japanese went formaldehyde fearful and started pushing their “F” standard. Their required F**** (F Four Star) rating was lower than E1. So some manufacturers who met the F**** level called their product E0.

Then of course CARB came along and set the new standard that most of us follow. Here’s a quick generalized comparison (and it’s generalized because the details of testing differs between all three):

That’s one of the challenges, remember—you have a lot of ways to measure emissions and by that, I mean both different methods/systems of testing and also completely different measurement systems. It is NOT like going from ft2 to m2: you cannot always make a clear direct comparison between them. When you dig into the details of emission ratings, you find discussions of the validity of comparing testing via large scale chamber emissions tests vs. perforator extraction test vs. desiccator tests and so on.

2. E0 being used by European panel producers.

Around a decade ago, E0 was used for a short time by panel producers to denote “lower than E1″ emitting panels, but this was not a well-defined numeric limit and was abandoned by the European regulatory community. As well as the well established E1, Europe does have an obsolete E2 level and rarely used ‘half E1’ rating.

3. Australia/New Zealand actually DO have emissions groupings called E1 and E0 — but they are based on the Japanese 24-hour desiccator test for particleboard and MDF so the AS/NZS and European “E classes” are NOT equivalent. And in case you’re curious, you will probably not be surprised to learn that the AS/NZS E0 is 0.05ppm, the same as F****.

And apparently E0 isn’t enough Down Under. I found companies advertising a “Super E0.”

(Doesn’t this feel a little like the way fashion designers keep shrinking dress sizes—it’s not enough to be a “zero” anymore there either, is it? Really skinny people are a 00.)

Anyway E0 is either a marketing tool or a rating from Down Under for plywood which matches Japanese F****. It is not connected to the European standards as anyone around here would think.

If you actually want to have a meaningful term that shows you’re better than the required level, go ULEF (Ultra Low Emitting Formaldehyde)–that’s 0.04ppm. And we all know that being 0.01 parts per MILLION less just makes all the difference in the world, right?

Me? I’d call it zero difference.

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