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Issue 10, 2000 (12 May)
 Feature Article

The Netherlands bans the use of formaldehyde in textile products

For a long time, formaldehyde-based substances have been used to help reduce creasing and shrinking in textile products. However, recent international research has suggested that the health of human beings can be adversely affected. Various types of skin allergies may be caused, if such textile products are in direct contact with human skin.

Consequently, the Dutch Ministry for Public Health, Welfare and Sport has published a Regulation on Formaldehyde, to ban trade in products that do not comply with certain conditions regarding their formaldehyde content.

Products covered

The ban applies to the trade in all clothing, and textile products not classified as clothing but which can reasonably be expected to come into direct touch with human skin, such as sheets and pillowcases, which contain:

  • more than 120ppm formaldehyde before they are washed once in accordance with the corresponding washing instructions, where they are not provided with the designation "wash before first use";
  • more than 120ppm formaldehyde after they have been washed once.

Products containing formaldehyde may still be allowable, provided that the formaldehyde content drops below 120ppm after they have been washed once in accordance with the washing instructions. In this case the products, either directly or on its packaging, must be labelled "wash before first use".


The legislation specifies in scientific detail the required tests to determine whether or not products are banned within the scope of this legislation. Other tests are allowed if they produce results similar to the tests described in the Dutch legislation. Currently this only applies to ISO/EN 14184 and JL112 (Japanese legislation) based tests.

Other testing methods are also allowed, provided that:

  • the products are produced in another Member State of the EU or a contracting party to the Agreement on the European Economic Area and brought legitimately into trade; and
  • the results of these methods are comparable with those of the test methods in the Appendix.

Effective dates

The legislation, is due to take effect on 1 July 2000. However, products already available on the market before this date may still be traded for nine months afterwards. Hence, if Hong Kong exporters have made these products available on the market by 1 July 2000, they can still be traded until 31 March 2001. The legislation however leaves some uncertainty in that it does not state in further detail what is meant by the term "traded".