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Industrial Health and Safety: Formaldehyde

Volume 465: debated on Wednesday 24 October 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions whether the Government will adopt the recommendations of the European Commission's Scientific Committee on Occupational Exposure Limits to reduce occupational exposure limit values for formaldehyde to 0.2 ppm for eight-hour time weighted average and to 0.4 ppm for short-term exposure limits up to 15 minutes. (160389)

The Government do not intend to adopt the recommendations on formaldehyde from the European Commission’s Scientific Committee on occupational exposure limits, at the current time.

However, discussions are currently ongoing within the European Commission on whether or not to include formaldehyde in the annex to a future indication occupational exposure limit values (IOELV) directive, and if so at what level. We anticipate the Commission will present a proposal to the Luxembourg Advisory Committee on Safety and Health in November.

Should an IOELV be agreed for formaldehyde in a future Commission directive, the UK Government will take that limit into account when setting their own domestic limit.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions whether the Health and Safety Executive's (HSE's) Disease Reduction Programme has concluded its benchmarking exercise; what steps the HSE plans to take on workplace exposure limits for formaldehyde; and if he will make a statement. (160390)

The Health and Safety Executive's benchmarking exercise was presented in June 2007 to representatives of employers, trades unions, pressure groups and the scientific community at a workshop chaired by a highly respected independent academic.

There are no immediate plans to amend the current workplace exposure limits for formaldehyde. If, however, formaldehyde is included in the third European Commission Indicative Occupational Exposure Limit Values Directive, the Health and Safety Executive would be obliged to take account of that limit when setting a domestic limit in the UK.