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Formacare agrees on exposure limits to protect formaldehyde sector workers

Two years ahead of proposed EU legislation, Formacare has agreed on a voluntary agreement to implement pan-European occupational exposure limits (OEL) for workers in the formaldehyde sector.

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The voluntary agreement represents a commitment to implement an EU-wide binding occupational exposure limit of 0.3ppm (parts per million) for the 8-hour average and 0.6ppm for the short-term exposure limit. There is consensus among industry and trade unions that these values constitute a safe threshold for workers.

The agreement has been signed by most members of Formacare, which is the formaldehyde sector group of official campaign partner European Chemical Industry Council (Cefic), and covers about 90% of the European formaldehyde market.

Formaldehyde is a chemical widely used in applications such as glues for wood panels, coatings for paints, high-end plastics etc. Some 30,000 people in Europe work in the formaldehyde industry and at present different OELs apply across the EU 28 and Norway. This means exposure conditions vary significantly.

Lars-Eric Johansson, Chairman of Formacare, commented: “The agreement is a result of the work that Formacare and the European Chemical Employers Group (ECEG), as well as trade unions representatives from the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) and industriALL, have done over the past few years in the context of the revision of the EU Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive (CMD) to promote workplace safety. It is a clear demonstration of what can be achieved via open and constructive collaboration with our trade union partners”.

The revision of the EU Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive (CMD) has recently been adopted by EU ministers, which will result in the implementation of a single, harmonised OEL for formaldehyde throughout Europe by mid-2021.