Proposal to further restrict formaldehyde under REACH
The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) has submitted an Annex XV restriction proposal for the further restriction of formaldehyde in articles. This was in response to the learning outcomes from research carried out on behalf of ECHA. This research concluded that human health risks exist from the release of formaldehyde from consumer articles which are not adequately controlled in all scenarios.
Formaldehyde is a high production volume chemical with a wide array of uses. While formaldehyde is mostly used as a chemical intermediate and has limited applications as a biocide, substances manufactured from formaldehyde are used primarily in the production of articles.
Formaldehyde is used extensively in furniture articles, mainly in the form of urea formaldehyde (UF) resins, which are used in the production of particleboard and plywood. Formaldehyde can also be found in Phenol formaldehyde (PF) resins with application in the production of laminates, and in Melamine formaldehyde (MF) resins.
Potential contradiction in the ECHA proposal
FIRA has communicated to members the potential for a further restriction of formaldehyde for some time now. The ECHA research into formaldehyde’s potential impact on human health has concluded and a restriction been proposed. FIRA has identified some potential contradictions within the ECHA proposal to further restrict formaldehyde emissions in articles which requires clarification.
The research conclusions and the restriction proposal both state that all consumer products should be assessed for formaldehyde release, to reduce consumer health risks from articles placed on the market. The implications of this, should the proposal be accepted, is that producers of articles will need to demonstrate that the products they place on the market are compliant with the upper emission limit value (UEL) of 0.124 mg/m3 in an air chamber test under the conditions prescribed in EN717-1.
However the research and restriction proposal also suggest that furniture manufacturers using E1 boards will not be affected by the proposed restriction on articles, as E1 boards meet the emissions limit values.
FIRA has written to ECHA asking for clarity on this issue, as it has the potential to be very expensive for furniture manufacturers. FIRA would encourage furniture manufacturers to be raising the issue now at both a national and European level.
The implications for the furniture industry are not purely cost related as there are significant challenges securing access to the required air chamber test facilities.
Responsibilities under REACH
Under REACH regulations each actor in the supply chain bears responsibility for their articles’ safeness, especially if the articles contain substances that may have very serious effects on human health or the environment.
In order to ensure a high level of protection from the use of such substances in articles as regulated by REACH, the presence of SVHCs in articles needs to be transparent and communicated to all stakeholders in the supply chain. This is a prerequisite for the identification and application of appropriate risk management measures.
The identification of a substance as SVHC and its inclusion in the European Chemical Agency (ECHA) Candidate List is the first step of the authorisation procedure. Companies may have immediate legal obligations following such inclusion which are linked to the listed substance on its own, in preparations and articles.
If you’re a producer, supplier or importer you have an obligation to understand your responsibilities regarding REACH. Whether it’s a small or larger part to play in the process, it is advisable to have an understanding according to your business activity.
Research Association members have access to news feeds, updates and technical articles regarding REACH. The technical services team can offer consultation and guidance regarding this subject to meet your needs. There is also a testing facility available via FIRA International to ensure that your products meet the REACH regulations.
Resources and references
Further information on compliance with REACH regulations is available on the following websites:
REACH: Regulation for Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals
Object: Something that can be seen or touched
Article: A finished product, for example a piece of furniture
Producer: A producer is someone who makes or produces something, for example, a manufacturer of a finished article or a component manufacturer
Importer: Company or individual, bringing goods into a country to resell or use in further production
Supplier: Company or an individual goods (also in bulk) to sell, for example, a wholesaler or distributor
Candidate list: In this case, candidate means the chemical group. A list of chemical groups or chemicals
Notification Obligation: This is your responsibility to notify the European Chemical Agency of any chemicals in products that are not on the candidate list, restricted chemical list or substances of very high concern list