It’s everywhere! Remain calm.
Formaldehyde is a naturally occurring compound that is basically all around us in varying amounts, from the planet’s surface to its atmosphere and out into interstellar space. To learn more about it, here’s a link to the Wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Formaldehyde
It’s also used heavily in no-iron clothing material and is present in a LOT of the foods we eat:
It sounds like the trouble starts when it gets combined with other compounds to make resins & glues, which is why it has been regulated so closely in the last 10-15 years. There are innumerable other products it’s used to make as well, both inside & outside the construction industry.
Besh cabinets do use California compliant materials, which have the strictest regulations in the US, but does not use 100% formaldehyde free *anything*. You can read the consumer FAQ on the California Air Resources Board page at this link: http://www.arb.ca.gov/toxics/compwood/consumer_faq.pdf The short version is, there is no such thing as 100% formaldehyde free plywood.
All that being said, the best info I could find in response to health concerns is this one from Joel Hirschberg, Green Building Supply Center in Fairfield IA on the Green Home Guide:
From that response, basically, applying an encapsulated sealer is the best thing that can block formaldehyde outgassing.
The challenge with all the risk minimization is twofold:
1) Sensitivity levels vary from individual to individual, so a certain level may not affect one person as much as the next. And because formaldehyde is so ubiquitous, it’s difficult to isolate the source, even with an allergy patch test.
2) There is significant added cost for products that minimize outgassing, both in terms of labor (to apply multiple coats of AFM safecoat for example) and materials (specialty produced bamboo or other exotic woods, for example).
My guess is that outgassing is less of a concern in older homes because they aren’t as tightly enclosed as new ones.
Not a black & white easy answer, but there it is.