Why Manufacturers Need Formaldehyde Testing Laboratories

Formaldehyde is categorized by REACH as a substance of very high concern (SVHC), and the use of this highly carcinogenic chemical is tightly restricted worldwide.

In order to have your products allowed on the market, they must be certified as being compliant with REACH and other international consumer health directives. To this end, manufacturers must use formaldehyde testing laboratories.

The Dangers of Formaldehyde

Formaldehyde is a highly toxic biocide which can cause severe burns and result in death if swallowed, inhaled or coming into contact with the skin. It is colorless, flammable, and has a pungent smell.

Formaldehyde Testing
Products containing formaldehyde must be labeled with information about concentration of formaldehyde
as well as warning symbols indicating the health hazards they pose.

The Common Uses of Formaldehyde

While it is a hazardous substance, formaldehyde is also a highly versatile chemical, and it is used in a variety of ways in a vast range of manufacturing processes. For example, various forms of formaldehyde (liquid or gas) are used to manufacture resins, disinfectants and fixatives. It’s also used as a preservative in consumer products.

Uses of formaldehyde as a biocide:
  • Disinfectants and algaecides not intended for direct application to humans or animals
  • Embalming and taxidermist fluid
  • Pest control
  • Veterinary hygiene.
Uses of formaldehyde in manufacturing:
  • Assorted textiles
  • Building materials
  • Cosmetics (lipstick, nail polish)
  • Electronic equipment
  • Flooring and furniture
  • Footwear
  • Glue/bonding agent in the manufacture of composite panel products
  • Leather garments and products
  • Paper products
  • Personal care products (shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste)
  • Photographic film, inks, and paints
  • Polishes and waxes
  • Vehicle production
  • Wrinkle-free fabrics
  • Washing and cleaning products (liquids and detergents)

Health and Safety Regulations for Formaldehyde

Formaldehyde (methanol) is registered under the European health and safety directive REACH and classified under the following Hazard Class and Category Codes:

  • Acute Toxicity 3 and 4
  • Carcinogenic (Carc. 1B)
  • Corrosive to skin (Corr. 1B)
  • Skin irritant (Skin Sens. 1A)
  • Sensitization of the respiratory tract or the skin
  • Mutagenic properties (Muta. 2)
REACH Formaldehyde Concentration Limit in Consumer Products

Any use of formaldehyde in mixtures, the presence of formaldehyde in any item (product) or its potential to release formaldehyde is limited to a concentration of 0.1%.

Formaldehyde Testing by Laboratories

Products are categorized based on their potential to release formaldehyde into the environment over time, both indoors and outdoors.

Testing products as formaldehyde releasers

There are many products with the potential for releasing formaldehyde into indoor air; these include pressed wood products, insulation foams, and textile.

Most indoor sources of formaldehyde do not contain formaldehyde as such, but can emit the toxin as a product of hydrolysis, referred to as “secondary emissions”, which may occur over multiple days or months.

What is the Formaldehyde Test?

Formaldehyde testing laboratories use a variety of methods to measure formaldehyde emissions, depending on the type of product being tested and the type of formaldehyde used in the manufacturing process, or the type of formaldehyde that may potentially be released by the product.

The tests are designed to determine the following:

  • The total concentration of formaldehyde contained in the product
  • How much formaldehyde can be released during the product’s lifetime
  • Indoor formaldehyde air concentration over a specified period of time.
Formaldehyde Content Testing

These various tests reveal how much formaldehyde is contained in the product, and determine the extent to which formaldehyde is captured and analyzed, or hidden. For some liquid products, such as detergents, formaldehyde is released slowly until the liquid is spread out on a surface.

Free Formaldehyde Content Test

Determines actual concentration of formaldehyde in the product as well as determining how much formaldehyde can be released during the product’s lifetime.

Total Formaldehyde Tests

Measures the release of all potentially formed formaldehyde emissions at once.

Emissions Chamber Tests – CEN/TS 16516

CEN/TS 16516 is a series of ISO 16000-standard horizontal VOC emissions testing methods – very similar to the European standard ‘EN 717-1 Chamber Method’ – and includes the following:

  • Operation of ventilated test chambers such as temperature and ventilation
  • Analysis of emitted compounds from test chamber air
  • Calculation of test results
  • Reporting of test results.

The samples are tested in a sealed test chamber to determine the concentration of formaldehyde in the indoors air after a certain elapsed time, serving as an indicator for long-term indoor air exposure.
The standard formaldehyde emissions limit is 0.1 parts per million (ppm).

The emissions testing period varies depending on the product and destination market:

  • Europe: after 3 days and/or after 28 days
  • USA: after 14 days
  • Furniture: after 7 days
  • Wood-based panels: after 20 hours in a large test chamber.

Other Formaldehyde Testing Methods

Perforator Method (EN 120)
  • Determination of formaldehyde content in a sample
  • Emission class E1: Less than 8.0 mg/100 g.
Gas Analysis Method (EN 717-2)
  • Determination of formaldehyde content in mg/m2xh
  • Emission class E1: Less than 3.5 mg/hxm2.
Flask Method (EN 717-3)
  • Determination of formaldehyde release in small samples
  • No official limit value published.
Desiccator Method ISO/DIS 12460-4 or JIS A 1460 or JAS 233)
  • Determination of formaldehyde release in liquids
  • Limit value: 0.3 mg/l.

The Importance of Complying with Formaldehyde Tests for Manufacturers

Restrictions governing the use and emissions of formaldehyde and other chemicals sold in consumer products in the European Union became law in 2007 as REACH (Regulation for Registration, Evaluation, Authorization, and Restriction of Chemicals).

Similar directives have been adopted by other countries around the world since 2007.

REACH directives require any organization producing, supplying, distributing, importing, using or placing a substance, mixture or article on the EU market to be responsible for ensuring that it is in compliance with REACH regulations.

The burden of proof of compliance with REACH regulations is on the manufacturer, who must identify and manage the risks linked to the substances they manufacture and market in the EU.

As such, manufacturers and producers are compelled to demonstrate to the ECHA how the substance can be safely used, and they must communicate the risk management measures to the users.

Certification for Labelling

The CE mark is required on almost all products sold in the EU which could contain hazardous chemicals. Only products that comply with REACH are allowed to display the ‘CE’ mark, which shows that the manufacturer has checked that the products meet EU safety, health or environmental requirements.

How Can QIMA Help You?

QIMA provides on-site ISO standard testing for formaldehyde, as well as laboratory testing facilities for formaldehyde in the US, China, and Hong Kong.

We also work with more than 200 affiliated laboratories around the world to provide our customers with quick and efficient testing services wherever they are.

Transparent Results and Affordable Prices.

We’ll advise you on the appropriate tests for your product and your destination market.

Samples are taken at source or from batches of the actual product to ensure transparency in the selection and testing procedure, and guarantee accurate results.

We’ll determine appropriate tests for your product sample and destination market, keeping your testing costs as low as possible.

Certification for labeling

Our formaldehyde testing laboratories are qualified to certify products with the labels required by the Classification Labeling and Packaging (CLP) of substances and mixtures regulations issued by the European Commission’s Health & Safety Authority.

Click here to contact us and learn more about our laboratory locations and get an instant quote or information on how we can help you customize your formaldehyde testing.