New EU limits for formaldehyde emission is half the values of European E1 classification

Formaldehyde emissions can be hazardous after a certain level, impacting workplace safety

According to Catas, a testing and certification body for the wood industry, the European Commission has established a new limit for the concentration of formaldehyde in the air of living environments.

The new Regulation 2023/1464, published on 14 Jul 2023, cuts the previous values by setting the limit to 0.062mg/m3 for the emission of this substance considering, in particular, wood-based products and furniture as possible sources of formaldehyde.

It should be noted that the provision prescribes a new limit which is exactly the half of the value indicated in 1989 by the World Health Organization at 0.124mg/m3, on which the E1 classification is based.

The E1 is, up to now, not only the “recognised standard” of the sector, as stated by Catas, but it is also the reference class legally adopted by many European countries, including Italy.

Catas believes that for the first time, the whole European wood and furniture sector must adopt a precise “rule” from the European authorities which, unlike the E1 classification, must be applied by all European countries, involving also all products imported in the EU.

Companies in the sector will have three years to comply with the new regulation. This period of time is necessary for the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) to define, with the involvement of the European associations and organisations involved, the proper guidelines on test methods.

The new regulation and the possible consequences on the market were presented during a webinar organised on 26 Jul by FederlegnoArredo, the federation of Italian associations representing companies engaged in the processing of wood and its derivatives, and by Catas, which were both closely involved in the effort to bring the needs of the companies of the sector to the tables where the regulation was discussed.

“The restriction on formaldehyde certainly has the advantage of restoring uniformity at a European level: Companies already have compliant solutions available on the market for most of their products,” commented Omar Degoli, head of the Environment and Circular Economy Office of FederlegnoArredo.

“It will be necessary to evaluate the time required for a complete fulfilment of all products and the turnover of warehouses, in order to be completely ready for the deadline.

“We hope that the same attention will be placed to the market surveillance with adequate controls on products and semi-finished products imported into Europe from other countries to be compliant with the new limits.”

“We are ready to measure the compliance of the products with the new limits,” commented Franco Bulian, head director of Catas. “The guidelines that the European authorities will define, will soon allow us to be able to use also the so-called ‘derived’ methods as well, simplifying the procedures and helping companies in the necessary analytical controls.

“One aspect I would like to underline is that such strict measures Europe has defined will change also the comparison with other limits in the international scenario: If before the new EU regulation we were generally above the limits currently applied in the American market, now the situation is the opposite with consequences not easily predictable.

“Moreover, this new regulation demonstrates how decisively Europe is increasingly moving towards concrete actions to the products safety. The recent provisions to reduce the use of diisocyanates in products such as adhesives and paints or what is being done with regard to melamine, clearly demonstrate the strong attention of the EU to safety issues that also involve our sector.”