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Formaldehyde - limit values for product emissions

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The scientific controversy, whether there is a hygienic exposure threshold below which the human body can defend itself and exposure will not lead to cancer, or whether any additional exposure to formaldehyde must be avoided even at lowest levels, leads to different limit values for product emissions of formaldehyde.

Mostly used limits in Europe are:

  • 120 µg/m³ for E1 formaldehyde class, wood-based and other products
    (reported as equilibrium concentration, or as test result after 28 days ventilated storage).
    Some European countries have a national regulation that only E1 conform wood-based panels must be distributed on their territories: Austria, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Sweden.
  • 100 µg/m³ after 28 days ventilated storage as European harmonized LCI value,
    used for product regulations in Belgium and in Germany.
  • 24 or 30 or 50 µg/m³ after 28 days ventilated storage (depending on the concerned program) for voluntary labels that favour the precautionary principle with a higher safety margin(EMICODEIndoor Air ComfortBlue AngelM1 and more).
  • 10 µg/m³ after 28 days ventilated storage for French A+ class, and for LEED v4 outside North America, and Indoor Air Comfort GOLD.

Mostly used limits in the USA are:

  • Between 60 and 150 µg/m³ for Californian CARB phase 2 regulation, differentiated for different types of wood-based products (reported with a special US testing methodology).
  • 9 µg/m³ after 14 days ventilated storage for California CDPH method, and for LEED v4 globally.
  • 60 µg/m³ after 7 days ventilated storage for office furniture, workstations, ANSI/BIFMA X7.1 and ANSI/BIFMA e3.

Japan has another classification system for formaldehyde releasing products. The lowest formaldehyde class, F****, allows maximum 5 µg/m²h emissions, but tested with a special Japanese technology.

Using synergies

If a manufacturer needs formaldehyde and VOC emission testing for markets in several countries, then Eurofins can try to help saving money by combining all required testing into one test setup, and by selecting the worst-case test method to obtain test data covering all requirements. This service is unique in the whole world. No single other testing laboratory is approved for emission chamber testing by the same number of both US and European specifications and regulations for low-emitting products.

If it comes to formaldehyde, this combination of different test methods into one test setup requires a certain pragmatic creativity. The different test methods deliver more or less different test results for the same product sample. But in two cases this does not matter for product evaluation:

  • if a product complies with a test method that gives systematically higher values than the reference test method, then it will comply with that test method as well; and
  • if a product gives test results far below the limit values, much lower than the discrepancy between the test methods, then it will comply with the reference test method as well;
  • nevertheless, these considerations might be rejected by regulators and programs that are run by non-experts; administrative staff may want to stick to the printed letter and not accept such analogy conclusions. This has to be clarified in each single case.

Contact VOC Testing Laboratories

Please see here contact information of Eurofins VOC testing laboratories in Europe, China and Japan: