Substitution of formaldehyde by starch in adhesives used in the manufacture of wood particle boards




General Section



Manufacture of wood and wood products


Dispersing agent
Resins (prepolymers)


Roller application or brushing

Product category

Adhesives, sealants


Production of wooden panels


Adhesives used in the manufacture of wood particle boards (chipboard) contain, among other hazardous chemicals, formaldehyde (carcinogen and sensitiser). Employees are exposed to high concentrations of formaldehyde during the manufacture of wood particle boards. The union’s (CCOO) regional health and safety department in Galicia, Spain, put forward an initiative for the substitution of formaldehyde by starch.

Substituted substances


CAS No. 50-00-0 EC No. 200-001-8 Index No. 605-001-00-5

Chemical group


Classification: hazard statements

H350 May cause cancer
H341 Suspected of causing genetic defects
H331 Toxic if inhaled
H311 Toxic in contact with skin
H301 Toxic if swallowed
H314 Causes severe skin burns and eye damage
H317 May cause an allergic skin reaction

Other adverse effects

The substance is: 1 carcinogen (IARC) as listed in the Substance Database according to SUBSPORT Screening Criteria (SDSC).

Alternative Substances


CAS No. 9005-25-8 EC No. 232-679-6 Index No.

Chemical group


Reliability of information

Evidence of assessment: there is evidence of an official (positive) assessment of the substitution

Reason substitution

skin/respiratory sensitizing
other toxic effects

Hazard Assessment

Substance to be substituted: Formaldehyde is a carcinogen cat. 2A according to IARC. It is also a sensitiser: may cause sensitization by skin contact. Because of these two important risks, formaldehyde is listed in the hazardous Substance Database according to SUBSPORTplus Screening Criteria (SDSC). Formaldehyde is toxic by inhalation, in contact with skin, if swallowed and is suspected of causing genetic defects. Alternative substance: Alternative substance has no risks.

Description of Substitution

A company that manufactured wooden particle boards used polyester resins that contained formaldehyde among other dangerous elements. Chipboards are made of small wood shavings pressed with an adhesive at the required temperature. Aminoplast adhesive resins are used during manufacture. Those resins are made up of urea-formol (chipboards) or melamine-formol compounds (damp-proof particle boards). Resins are used as dispersants in the paper, glue and chipboard mix for later plastification. These resins contain several hazardous substances such as formaldehyde (carcinogen and sensitiser); melamine; or 2-butoxyethanol (is a volatile organic compound (VOC). The Galician union’s occupational health department had unsuccessfully sought to substitute formaldehyde in companies, due to its harmful health and environmental effects. Health effects of formaldehyde include nasopharyngeal cancer, toxicity by inhalation and asthma aggravation. Hygienic measurements detected formaldehyde concentrations of 1.8mg/m3 (almost 5 times above the occupational exposure limit value), which required the reduction of exposure. The company was initially reluctant to implement substitution but union representatives insisted on the necessity to replace formaldehyde given the fact that limit values were exceeded and that the chemical would soon be reclassified as category 1 carcinogen, which would make substitution compulsory if viable alternatives were available. The substance most appropriate that the union’s occupational health department found to replace formaldehyde at this company was starch.

Case/substitution evaluation

As shown at the “alternatives assessment” starch does not imply any health hazards. Therefore, this case study is a successful example of substituting a substance with a high risk to human health by a harmless substance.

State of implementation

Pilot study

Date and place of implementation

2011 en España

Enterprise using the alternative

Availability ofAlternative

On the market


Type of information supplier



The union’s (CCOO) regional health and safety department in Galicia, Spain

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