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06 September 2019

FORMALDEHYDE, A POSITIVE PERSPECTIVE. BY GEORGE GALLACHER_UK

Formaldehyde has been part of our everyday lives for a very long time. It was one of the first chemicals to be synthetized and mass-produced in the late 19th century- when industry took inspiration from formaldehyde’s role as a natural building block in forests, foods and the human body to produce glues, resins, plastics and coating along with many other applications.

One of the most important uses of formaldehyde is to help produce sustainable and competitively priced wood products. The wood panel sector is the largest user of formaldehyde resins - mostly Urea-Formaldehyde (UF), Melamine-Formaldehyde (MF) and Phenol-Formaldehyde (PF) – and accounts for about two thirds of the formaldehyde produced in the EU (3.5Mt). The collaboration between the European Panel Federation (EPF) and Formacare, the Association of European Producers of Formaldehyde and Derivatives - a sector group of the European Chemical Industry Association (CEFIC) – is an excellent case study of value chain working together constructively on issues of common interest. Unlike in the case of many other chemicals, where collaboration between producers and downstream users is often limited, EPF and Formacare work hand in hand to promote the safe and sustainable use of formaldehyde.
While the two organizations share some member companies who produce both chemicals and wood panels, this does not automatically guarantee a consistent approach to engagement with regulators and the scientific community. Coordination bodies like Formacare’s Advocacy Steering Team facilitate the alignment of agendas and provide a platform for the integration of input from downstream users. As an example, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) recently published a draft Restriction proposal addressing consumer articles emitting formaldehyde, such as wood panels and related products. Close collaboration between the EPF and Formacare helped significantly reduce the time needed to react to this draft and led to much more efficient exchange of information with regulatory authorities. Working together with their respective networks, the chemicals and wood panel industry have been supporting the proposed emission values of 0.124mg/m³ initially proposed by ECHA: such values would ensure consumer protection while allowing the industry to continue to thrive in Europe.
George Gallacher Vice-Chairman of Formacare, is a strong advocate of this kind of integrated approach. According to Mr. Gallacher “working together on a shared advocacy and scientific agenda brings substantial efficiency gains and allows for a two-way exchange of information that benefits both the value chain and our external stakeholders”. Ensuring exposure to formaldehyde as low as possible is of paramount importance to both EPF and Formacare.
As a case in point, both parties have launched voluntary agreements to implement workplace safety measures well in advance of new EU rules on occupational exposure limits (OELs) for formaldehyde coming into force in 2021. The two agreements are clear testimony to a dynamic, responsible value chain driven by shared principles of sustainability, safety and transparency in our operations.
For more information, please, contact the writer:

GEORGE GALLACHER
The Steading, Netherton Farm
FK9 4NE BRIDGE OF ALLIAN, United Kingdom / Tel.& Fax +44 7770 641323 / E-mail: george@georgegallacher.com  

FORMACARE CEFIC Chemical Council
Rue Belliard 40
B-1040 BRUSSELS, Belgium / Ph. +32 2 4369300 / E-mail: jcr@cefic.be

http://www.cefic.be