Melamine board, as I mentioned, is usually made with a glue containing formaldehyde.
Formaldehyde outgasses from the particle board, and does so particularly badly when it is heated. It's toxic and carcinogenic.
MDF is a problem for the same reason.
The problem can be reduced by heating and airing out the board in advance of using it, (by drying it in the sun for a week, for example), and by sealing it extremely well, but it's not risk-free. There are safer materials to use.
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I don't have answers as to how much out gassing of formaldehyde or other gasses effects snakes. The information I have is how it effects humans. The assumption is it has some effect but what? hard to say.
There are so many things and variables that it is impossible to say if or how much. I feel I have a responsibility to bring as much information as I have to the table. It is the op job to weigh and make an informed decision. I work with chemicals everyday (formaldehyde is one) and what you don't know WILL hurt you. Chemicals can be used safely but only if you know what safe is.
Personally I feel quite confident in saying any and all wood products should be sealed before long term (snakey) contact. That includes all ply woods and all particle woods including the exposed edge of melamine board. This is simply prudent nothing more. Lots use melamine lots use MDF. (we always called it medium death board) does it effect the snakes? maybe. The best answer anyone can give there are no studies been done I know of. Does it effect the person using it? YES that is well documented. The best answer I can give. For humans plywood is less harmful than particulate boards (chip, particle and MDF)
However I will add that level of exposure has to be a huge factor here. Just because you have a melamine shelf in your house doesn't mean you are inhaling dangerous formaldehyde levels and going to get cancer.
I look at it like this, take gasoline for instance. It has high levels of benzine which is horribly carcinogenic. Would I want to drink water from a well downhill from a gas station, uh no, but I also don't wear a respirator and hazmat suit to fill up my tank.
So the risks aside, what is the best way to mitigate things? Folks mention sealing the wood. What is a good sealer? Are we talking like shellac here or what?
*Disclaimer: The above is my 2 cents. I'm a computer engineer, not a chemist or human health expert so what do I really know.
Vdoc that is completely true amount , type frequence, a handfull of other variables all effect how bad the exposure is.
sealers are varied as well. I don't think shellac would be a good choice alone anyway as an primer sure.
The toughest is likely marine epoxy very expesive and liner polyurethanes would be next but also super expensive.
A good polyurethane paint or varnish is fine as long as it is FULLY cured (4-5 days and I'd expose it to 80-100ºF temps for 12 hours if I could.) i really like colors in plastic by varathane personally.
Any oil paint will do just avoid paints made for decks and bathrooms (often have biocide additives) and anything that says SPAR on it. Spar (sailboat booms and masts are spars) varnish or paints they are designed to be flexible and never fully cure.
Water based products are fine too (again not ones ment for decks or bathrooms) I would use exterior as the humidity can be quite high. I find water based ones to no be as hard wearing myself but they work just fine.
Oil finishes I'd probably avoid all together.
My granddad used to use a polished pariffin wax finish that is not toxic and waterproof it would likely work well too. Most finishes will be fine. For the most part cured paint and varnishes are plastic. There are no thinners or other things left (bathroom and decks excluded) Floor paint is nasty smelling are hard to deal with so I'd not just for that reason.
The range there, epoxy and LPs are very difficult to use so if you have no experience with them stay away from it. I hope this helps.
I have built several enclosures out of plywood. I used water based stain and the a water based polyurethane to seal them. I have been using these enclosures for several years with no problems. You will need to let it air out after sealing with your heat tape running until you cant smell it anymore which took over a week for me.