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Restricted Substances Testing

Formaldehyde Testing

What is formaldehyde?

Formaldehyde is a chemical compound that is widely used in industrial manufacturing and a number of other industries. It is a colourless, flammable, strong smelling chemical which is gas at room temperature but also readily soluble in water.

What are the risks of formaldehyde?

When formaldehyde is present in the air at levels exceeding 0.1 ppm, some individuals may experience adverse effects such as watery eyes; burning sensations in the eyes, nose, and throat;

coughing; wheezing; nausea; and skin irritation. Some people are very sensitive to formaldehyde, whereas others have no reaction to the same level of exposure.

In addition to this, formaldehyde is classified as a human carcinogen under conditions of high and prolonged exposure.

Where is formaldehyde found and why is it present?

Formaldehyde is often found in everyday products such as handbags, footwear, accessories, garments, beauty and cosmetic products and areas of application include adhesives, textile processing and as a preservative in some paints, coating products and also in some cosmetics.  Formaldehyde is also used in the production of some polymers.  It is also used during embalming processes to preserve corpses.

Historically, formaldehyde has been used as a tanning agent due to its ability to crosslink proteins such as collagen.  In addition, it has been used (again historically) to crosslink protein finishes such as casein.  In modern processing, formaldehyde can be used in the manufacture of certain polymericbased synthetic tanning agents.  Its presence in leather may be as a result of the condensation residue from some synthetic tanning agents. Some biocides are also formaldehyde generators.

What legislation relates to formaldehyde?

Restricted substance legislation is highly variable depending upon:

- the final application of the leather in the product

- the target user

- the country where the leather or product is manufactured or sold

Formaldehyde is commonly restricted according to the end consumer (i.e. adult or child) with the acceptable limits for children being significantly lower than those for adults.  Formaldehyde is one of the key examples of how variable the restrictions can be.

WithinEuropethere is no general legislation that limits the presence of formaldehyde in leather.  Some individual countries have restrictions on its presence in consumer products.  Various Eco-labels require that levels of formaldehyde are determined, and the automotive industry tends to have strict limits on formaldehyde release from car interior materials.

What are the limits for formaldehyde?

Brands and retailers have recently imposed restrictions that go beyond compliance, setting limits in the region of 20-30ppm.

TOXICOLOGY

The current Report on Carcinogens (RoC), published by the U.S. National Toxicology Program (NTP), classifies formaldehyde gas as a "Reasonably Anticipated Human Carcinogen”.

 

TEST METHOD

We use the internationally recognized ISO test method to measure the concentration of formaldehyde in leather, and have participated successfully in a recent international inter-laboratory method validation trial organized by the IULTCS (International Union of Leather Technologists and Chemists Societies). In this method, the formaldehyde is extracted from the sample, reacted with 2,4-dinitrophenylhydrazine (2,4-DNPH), and then quantified using high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC).

Alternatively, aldehydes emitted from leather in the gaseous form are first captured using special collection tubes, and then analyzed according to the procedures specified byTOYOTA, NISSAN and HONDA.

 

LIMITS

The U.S. has not implemented a regulatory ban or limit on the presence of formaldehyde in leather, but some other countries and most retailers – particularly the brand names – have implemented their own specifications that can range from as high as 300 ppm to as low as 10 ppm.

Leather manufacturers should determine what limit is being placed on the leather, either by the product manufacturer or by the retailer, and then allows us to test their leather on a regular basis to establish compliance.

As with all test specifications, some of the responsibility of ensuring compliance lies higher up in the supply chain. Leather product buyers should check that the tanner has a working compliance program by regularly submitting test samples to us on an independent basis.

 

SOURCES IN LEATHER

Formaldehyde is found in most leather at various concentrations due to its use in the synthesis of retaining agents and process chemical preservatives. Formaldehyde is used by chemical manufacturers to polymerize the synthetic retaining agents (“syntans”) that tanners require to impart the performance and aesthetic properties demanded of modern high performance leather (“feel”, water-resistance, etc.):

(1) Phenol sulfone and naphthalene based resins often contain some residual free formaldehyde that can vary in concentration and possibly cause adverse skin reactions.

(2) Formaldehyde can be released from urea melamine dicyandiamide retaining resins through cleavage of the unstable methylene bridges and N-methylol groups.

(3) Formaldehyde or formaldehyde-release agents are blended into various leather process formulations to preserve them.

 

OTHER ALDEHYDES

In addition to formaldehyde, leather often also contains acetaldehyde, the concentration of which is limited by the automotive manufacturers and some eco-labels. Acetaldehyde is almost ubiquitous in the environment, and may be present in leather due to the use of natural fat liquoring oils and/or vegetable extracts for retaining.

A third aldehyde, glutaraldehyde, can impart perspiration resistance and wash ability when used as a retaining agent. The above test method has been found to be equally valid for these additional aldehydes.

Regulations

EU Safety of toys EN 71-9

Oeko-Tex®Standard 100

EU Regulation (EU) No 10/2011 for Food Contact Plastic Materials

German Standard LFGB for Food Contact Materials

ChinaGB 18401 National General Safety Technical Code for Textile Products

Other related regulations

Formaldehyde Testing in Leather and Textiles

PTS Testing Service formaldehyde testing services

PTS Testing Service can carry out accredited formaldehyde testing in leather and textile products and samples:

Formaldehyde in leather (free and hydrolysed) BS EN ISO 17226-1:2008

Formaldehyde in textiles BS EN ISO 14184-1:2011

What is formaldehyde?

Formaldehyde is a chemical compound that is widely used in industrial manufacturing and a number of other industries. Formaldehyde is often found in everyday products such as handbags, footwear, accessories, garments, beauty and cosmetic products and areas of application include adhesives, textile processing and as a preservative in some paints, coating products and also in some cosmetics. Formaldehyde is also used in the production of some polymers.

Why carry out formaldehyde testing on products?

Formaldehyde is commonly restricted according to the end consumer (i.e. adult or child) with the acceptable limits for children being significantly lower than those for adults. Formaldehyde is one of the key examples of how variable the restrictions can be. Brands and retailers commonly impose restrictions, setting limits in the region of 20-200ppm depending on end use.

Bio-available Formaldehyde is considered a risk to human health as some individuals may experience adverse effects such as watery eyes; burning sensations in the eyes, nose, and throat; coughing; wheezing; nausea; and skin irritation.

What is formaldehyde?

Formaldehyde is a chemical compound that is widely used in industrial manufacturing and a number of other industries. It is a colourless, flammable, strong smelling chemical which is gas at room temperature but also readily soluble in water.

What are the risks of formaldehyde?

When formaldehyde is present in the air at levels exceeding 0.1 ppm, some individuals may experience adverse effects such as watery eyes; burning sensations in the eyes, nose, and throat; coughing; wheezing; nausea; and skin irritation. Some people are very sensitive to formaldehyde, whereas others have no reaction to the same level of exposure.  This is hydrolysable formaldehyde.

Formaldehyde restrictions in the context of leather and textiles are treated differently.  The formaldehyde is fixed in the substrate and hence the risk is reduced which is why the permittable levels are often higher.

In addition to this, formaldehyde is classified as a human carcinogen under conditions of high and prolonged exposure.

Where is formaldehyde found and why is it present?

Formaldehyde can be found in everyday products such as handbags, footwear, accessories, garments, beauty and cosmetic products and areas of application include adhesives, textile processing and as a preservative in some paints, coating products and also in some cosmetics.  Formaldehyde is also used in the production of some polymers.

Historically, formaldehyde has been used as a tanning agent due to its ability to crosslink proteins such as collagen.  In modern processing, formaldehyde can be used in the manufacture of certain polymeric-based synthetic tanning agents.  Its presence in leather may be as a result of the condensation residue from some synthetic tanning agents. Some biocides are also formaldehyde generators.

What legislation relates to formaldehyde?

Restricted substance legislation is highly variable depending upon:

the final application of the leather in the product

the target user

the country where the leather or product is manufactured or sold

Formaldehyde is commonly restricted according to the end consumer (i.e. adult or child) with the acceptable limits for children being significantly lower than those for adults.  Formaldehyde is one of the key examples of how variable the restrictions can be.

WithinEuropethere is no general legislation that limits the presence of formaldehyde in leather.  Some individual countries have restrictions on its presence in consumer products.  Various Eco-labels require that levels of formaldehyde are determined, and the automotive industry tends to have strict limits on formaldehyde release from car interior materials.

What are the limits for formaldehyde?

Brands and retailers have recently imposed restrictions that go beyond compliance, setting limits in the region of 20-100ppm.
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