New formaldehyde restrictions in the EU
Marccophoto | istockphoto
Outlining changes to this European legislation.
1st August 2023
Formaldehyde resins may be utilised in the production of wood-based furniture, floorings, textile and leather products and foams.
On 17th July 2023, the Official Journal of the European Union published Commission Regulation (EU) 2023/1464, implementing new restrictions on the emissions of formaldehyde from consumer goods. Formaldehyde-based resins are commonly used in the production of wood-based panels, where they act as a bonding agent for wood particles. Formaldehyde resins may also be utilised in the production of wood-based furniture, floorings, textile and leather products and foams. Existing legislation under REACH Annex XVII entry 72 limits the amount of formaldehyde permitted in textile products which come into contact with the skin, but this does not address the risk of exposure to formaldehyde emissions from articles in the home.
The new regulation adds a new entry to REACH Annex XVII – entry 77 – which will restrict formaldehyde emissions to a maximum of 0.062 mg/m3 (milligrams of formaldehyde per metre cubed of air) for furniture and wood-based articles, and 0.080 mg/m3 for all other articles.
These restrictions will come into force on 6th August 2026. After this date, products which do not meet these requirements cannot be placed onto the market within the European Union (EU). Certain exemptions apply, including for articles that are exclusively used outside and for articles which currently fall within the scope of REACH Annex XVII entry 72, for which the existing legislation will continue to apply. Personal protective equipment within the scope of Regulation (EU) 2016/425 will also be exempt.
At present, the UK has not published comparable restrictions on formaldehyde under UK REACH. However, in April 2023, the Health and Safety Executive initiated a ‘Regulatory Management Options Analysis’ (RMOA) to examine the risk that formaldehyde emissions from articles pose to the general public. It is therefore possible that similar legislation will be enacted under UK REACH in the near future.