It is important for everybody in this long-running debate to realise that formaldehyde is a fundamental building block of life – it is even manufactured in our own bodies. The issue is one of quantity/exposure.
In September, I was invited to attend a FormaCare conference in Barcelona, Spain. FormaCare is an organisation within CEFIC (the European Chemical Industry Council) and represents key
producers of formaldehyde, aminoplast glues and polyols.
If I am to be totally honest I would have to admit that, not being a chemist, I did not understand a lot of the content of the papers presented by some very eminent scientists and medical practitioners who all had a great deal of experience in research into the properties and possible harmful effects of formaldehyde on humans (see p49).
However, I had no trouble understanding the major conclusion of the conference; it was that, and I quote the official press release: "The common use of formaldehyde in consumer products and other applications does not pose a risk to human health".
I also understood that the interpretation of the original research results – which led the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), part of the World Health Organisation, to classify formaldehyde as carcinogenic to humans in the first place (2004) – was fundamentally flawed. And that is worrying, considering the damage any false information could do to our industry.
Decisions on their attitude to formaldehyde are expected soon by the European Commission and the National Cancer Institute in the US and it is to be hoped that they accept the findings expressed at the FormaCare conference.
Meanwhile in the real world of panel making, 2007 has been a good year overall, with plenty of optimism in evidence about the future. Although the problems in the US economy and banking system are putting a question mark on 2008 globally, let us hope that the strong market does continue.
I wish you all a very happy Christmas and a prosperous 2008.