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



✓ 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