On 13 February 2023, EU Member States approved the text of a REACH Restriction on Formaldehyde released from articles. The text will be published in the Official Journal of the European Union, after which it will become law. A relatively long transition period is foreseen as it shall apply 48 months after its entry into force for road vehicles, and 36 months after its entry into force for all other articles within its scope.

Formaldehyde is a chemical that is widely used in various industries, including the production of adhesives, resins, and textiles. However, formaldehyde is also a known a) carcinogen, meaning that it has the potential to cause cancer in humans and b) sensitiser, meaning that it can cause allergic reactions in some people. 

Consumers can be exposed to formaldehyde by breathing air containing off-gassed formaldehyde from consumer articles. However there are also naturally occurring sources  of formaldehyde and exposure can also occur by eating apples and walking in a pine forest. The age-old maxim of dose makes the poison applies here. Too much is harmful. 

Due to the potential health risks associated with formaldehyde from consumer articles, the European Union (EU) has implemented a Restriction on the use of formaldehyde under the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation, and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) Regulation. By restricting the emission of formaldehyde from articles, the EU aims to minimise the exposure of consumers to this hazardous substance. 

According to the text and the Annex, formaldehyde and formaldehyde releasing substances may not be placed on the market in articles if the concentration exceeds

  • 0.062 mg/m3 for furniture and wood-based articles;
  • 0.080 mg/m3 for articles other than furniture and wood-based articles.

The restriction has a transitional period of three years and does not apply to:

  1. articles in which formaldehyde or formaldehyde releasing substances are exclusively naturally present in the materials from which the articles are produced;
  2. articles that are exclusively for outdoor use under foreseeable conditions;
  3. articles in constructions, that are exclusively used outside the building shell and vapour barrier and that do not emit formaldehyde into indoor air;
  4. articles exclusively for industrial or professional use unless formaldehyde released from them leads to exposure of the general public under foreseeable conditions of use;
  5. articles for which the restriction laid down in entry 72 applies;
  6. articles that are biocidal products within the scope of Regulation (EU) 528/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council
  7. devices within the scope of Regulation (EU) 2017/745
  8. personal protective equipment within the scope of Regulation (EU) 2016/425
  9. articles intended to come into contact directly or indirectly with food within the scope of Regulation (EC) No 1935/2004;
  10. second-hand articles.