August 24, 2023

EU Establishes Emission Limits for Formaldehyde in Consumer Products

New measures adopted by the European Commission in July establish maximum emission limits for formaldehyde in consumer products. The rules, which are intended to reduce adverse health effects related to formaldehyde exposure, set an emission limit of 0.062 mg/m3 of formaldehyde into indoor air from wood-based products and furniture as well as the interiors of road vehicles. The limit for all other products—including textiles, leather, plastics, construction materials, and electronics—is 0.08 mg/m3.

According to the European Commission, most of the formaldehyde manufactured or imported in the European Union is used in the production of formaldehyde-based resins, which are used in a wide variety of products but primarily in the manufacture of wood-based panels. These resins are also used to make furniture and flooring as well as parts for road vehicles. The commission considers wood-based articles as the main emission sources of formaldehyde in indoor air, particularly in newly built homes. A lower emission limit for these articles and products “provides for increased protection of the general public, while limiting the socioeconomic costs for those sectors that do not contribute to the same extent to the emissions,” the commission explains in the text of the regulation. Similarly, the rule states that a lower limit for formaldehyde in the interiors of road vehicles is intended to “ensure adequate protection in particular of vulnerable populations.”

Manufacturers will have 36 months to comply with the new rules. Due to the long development and marketing time for road vehicles, the regulation states that automotive industry manufacturers will have a bit longer—48 months—to comply. The commission expects stakeholders to use this time to develop analytical methods to test formaldehyde emissions and to deploy formaldehyde-free products or products with low formaldehyde emissions. The European Chemicals Agency, which works to implement the European Union’s chemicals legislation to protect human health and the environment, will develop guidance intended to facilitate consistent implementation of the test conditions for the measurement of the formaldehyde emissions.

To learn more, see the European Commission’s news article or view the text of the new regulation.