Photo Credit: Wilsonart


Plastic Laminate (known as P-Lam) is a common countertop and cabinet material. It is a composite product made from layers of paper and often various formaldehyde-based resins, pressed together to form a rigid sheet. It is adhered to a substrate (medium density fiberboard, particle board, etc.) for structural support.


Laminate countertops are usually HPL (High Pressure Laminates) or HPDL (High Pressure Decorative Laminates) which provide a cheap, long-lasting surface often used in commercial and residential spaces. 


Areas of concern:

One concern with P-Lam is that substrates rely on formaldehyde-based binders which release formaldehyde into interior spaces over time. Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen and asthmagen, so it is important to specify laminate countertops with substrates made with a NAUF (no added urea formaldehyde) or NAF (no added formaldehyde) binder when possible.2


To enhance the longevity of these countertops, they are also covered in melamine, a petrochemical. Petrochemicals are incredibly damaging to the environment and are linked to acute and chronic diseases, ulcers, cancer, liver and kidney problems.3

Not only are these laminates covered in toxic chemicals, they are not recyclable and are ultimately dumped in landfills, creating further waste and continuing to off-gas.



✓ Be sure to:

  • Choose alternative cabinet and countertop materials:

    • Consider paper composites, which are made of recycled fibers and are more durable than plastic laminate composites.
    • Avoid phenol-formaldehyde glues or trace amounts of formaldehyde.

✓ If you have to use a laminate countertop:

  • Choose products that are made with NAF (No Added Formaldehyde) or ULEF (Ultra Low Emitting Formaldehyde).

✗  Watch out for:

  • Laminates certified as low-emitting and containing recycled materials, as they are not as durable.
  • Laminates with formaldehyde-based binders, as they release formaldehyde in the interior space.1
  • Laminate countertops that need to be manufactured on-site instead of in a factory. This helps reduce the number of solvents entering the home.1