Chemicals: The EU restricts exposure to carcinogenic substance formaldehyde in consumer products

July 14, 2023

Today, the EU Commission adopted measures to better protect people from the risk of cancer by introducing a maximum emission limit for the carcinogenic substance formaldehyde in a range of consumer products.

The new rules establish an emission limit of 0.062 mg/m3 of formaldehyde into indoor air for the largest contributors, such as wood-based articles and furniture and to the interior of road vehicles.  A limit of 0.08 mg/m3 will apply to all other articles such as textile, leather, plastic, construction materials or electronic products. This will ensure a high level of protection for human health while limiting the socio-economic burden and need for technological changes for a wide range of industries and sectors.

Producers of articles where formaldehyde is used will have 36-months to comply with the new rules, providing sufficient time for stakeholders to implement the restriction requirements, develop relevant analytical methods to test formaldehyde emissions and deploy formaldehyde-free or low emitting formaldehyde products. A 48-month limit will apply to vehicles. Moreover, the European Chemicals Agency – with the support of industry and experts – will develop guidance facilitating harmonised implementation of the test conditions for the measurement of the formaldehyde emissions.

Formaldehyde is known to have carcinogenic and mutagenic properties and can act as a toxicant and skin sensitiser. It is mostly used in the production of resins, thermoplastics and other chemicals. These are then further used in a range of consumer products and applications, such as in the manufacturing of wood-based furniture and flooring, which are the main sources of exposure to formaldehyde emissions in indoor air for consumers. It is also used in textile and leather products, parts for vehicles and aeroplanes, as well as foams, plastic and synthetic vitreous fibres.