EU committee considering formaldehyde in nail hardeners

By Lucy Whitehouse

- Last updated on GMT

EU committee considering formaldehyde in nail hardeners

Related tags Personal care products European union

Formaldehyde is set to be listed as a category 1B carcinogen, banning its use in European cosmetics; despite this, the European Commission is seeking opinions on whether to allow an exception on the continued use in nail hardeners.

The substance is anticipated to be classified as a ‘presumed human carcinogen’ in Europe under CLP Regulation, and a ban on its use in all cosmetics would follow such a classification.

The Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (SCCS) will provide the Commission with its opinion on whether the substance can be exempted from the ban in the instance of nail hardeners.

An exemption will be permissible under the CLP Regulation as the substance meets three criteria: there are no suitable alternatives available, the application is made for a particular use with known exposure, and its use fulfils relevant safety requirements.

Use in cosmetics

Formaldehyde and formaldehyde-releasing preservatives (FRPs), according to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, are currently used in many personal care products, particularly in shampoos and liquid baby soaps.

These formaldehyde-related chemicals can function as a preservative for water-based products, as they restrict bacteria growth.

However, due to their ability to be absorbed through the skin, the chemicals have been linked to allergic skin reactions and cancer in various studies, including those carried out by the Australian Government Department of Health an Ageing, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer.


At present, the status of the chemicals varies geographically: they are banned from use in cosmetics and toiletries in Japan and Sweden, and there are concentration restrictions in place on them in Canada.

In the EU, they are currently restricted in personal care products, with labeling required on products that do contain them.

If listed as a category 1B carcinogen in Europe, which is anticipated for the near future, formaldehyde can be proposed as a substance of very high concern based under Article 57 of REACH; it would not, however, be considered a chemical of 1A level, or a ‘known human carcinogen’.

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