Formaldehyde and formaldehyde releasers in metalworking fluids

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What you need to know about formaldehyde in metalworking fluids from Rhenus Lub

The Risk Assessment Committee (RAC) has classified formaldehyde1) as a category 1B carcinogen and category 2 mutagen. Rhenus Lub uses no formaldehyde in its metalworking fluids. However, some rhenus metalworking fluids contain formaldehyde releasers2), which can release formaldehyde. Labelling is only required from a concentration of 1000 ppm (= 0.1%) formaldehyde in its free (released) form.

Metalworking fluids from Rhenus Lub do not currently reach this limit, nor will future metalworking fluids. rhenus products containing formaldehyde depots can therefore be used without hesitation.

At present, the following therefore applies:

  • rhenus metalworking fluids are not labelled with information regarding formaldehyde and formaldehyde releasers.
  • Handling by users remains the same.
  • There are no changes to labelling.
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Measurement and labelling

In the Rhenus Lub laboratory, it has been standard procedure for years to use the formaldehyde concentration as a test parameter. As part of this process, a Skalar system is used to determine the amount of formaldehyde that can be released, thereby determining the maximum possible amount that can be released from the formaldehyde depot. In reality, only a very small fraction of this amount is actually released, meaning that this measurement procedure ensures the very highest level of safety for users.

Air limit values and inhalation of formaldehyde

The previous maximum allowable concentration (MAK) value expressed in the form of an occupational exposure limit of 0.62 mg/m³ has been withdrawn. The German MAK Commission has proposed a new value of 0.37 mg/m³. Furthermore, discussions are currently underway regarding a new limit value for the derived no-effect level (DNEL). It remains to be seen which value will be adopted (as at 28 April 2014).

This has the following implications:

Based on current knowledge, usage under normal operating conditions is safe. There is no obligation to take measurements of formaldehyde in ambient air. An evaluation of formaldehyde measurements taken in the air in mechanical production workplaces showed that, for the period from 1999 to 2009, 95% of all measurements were considerably below the limit value recommended by the MAK Commission (0.37 mg/m³). Moreover, compliance with the limit value in the region of 0.2 ppm = 0.25 mg/m³, as discussed by the Scientific Committee for Occupational Exposure Limits (SCOEL), was also ensured in over 95% of all measurements performed.
This information takes account of the legal guidelines currently in effect (as at May 2014). In addition, Rhenus Lub customers will automatically be informed in the event of any changes.

Despite new guidelines for the classification of formaldehyde, metalworking fluid users and producers will not encounter

  • any change in labelling
  • any obligation to take measurements
  • It’s up to you!

As a customer of Rhenus Lub, you have the same two possibilities as have previously been available: metalworking fluids with or without formaldehyde releasers.