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Published: July 2011
In most regions of the world, the largest markets for phenolic resins are in plywood and in fibrous and granulated wood products. Demand for wood products is influenced by the health of the construction industry and overall state of the economy. Since the major portion of phenolic resins is used in the wood products industry, the market for phenolic resins in most countries closely tracks GDP growth and housing market growth. Global phenol-formaldehyde resin consumption grew at an average annual rate of less than 1% during 2007–2010 (but fell during 2007–2009). The overall weak global economy had a large negative impact on total phenol-formaldehyde resin consumption during 2007–2009, hitting the construction industry particularly hard in 2008 and 2009. However, the industry had started its road to recovery by year-end 2009 and in 2010 made a significant comeback as the world economy improved.
About 5% of phenolic resins are modified with other reactants such as cresols, octylphenol, butylphenol and resorcinol. Coreactants are used primarily in specialty areas where unique properties are required. High-volume markets such as plywood, laminates, insulation and molding compounds are expected to continue to use straight phenol-formaldehyde resin to meet their requirements.
The following pie chart shows world consumption of phenolic resins:
Wood adhesives will continue to have the largest share (about 33%) of the world market for phenolic resins and will drive phenolic resin consumption on a global scale. The developing regions of Central and South America and Central and Eastern Europe will experience the largest growth in this application. Phenolic resin consumption for molding compounds (accounting for about 20% of world consumption) will grow primarily in China and Other Asia as more molding operations start up in the region. Laminates account for about 28% of the world market.
Formaldehyde emissions from formaldehyde-based resins have been a public concern since the 1980s. Formaldehyde is a chemical irritant and will irritate eyes, skin, nose, throat and lungs at concentrations above one ppm. In June 2011, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services listed formaldehyde as a known human carcinogen. Formaldehyde was listed in the 12th Report on Carcinogens, compiled by the National Toxicology Program.