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Formaldehyde – The Dangers it presents, and the likelihood of upcoming bans on its use as a biocide

26 January 2018

Formaldehyde is a long-standing biocide, used for many years in laboratories and healthcare environments to reduce bioburden. However, it is recognised as an extremely dangerous reagent and has been classified by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) as a category 2 mutagenic and category 1B carcinogen, as of 1st January 2016.


In advance of the 2016 reclassification, the HSE made a very clear statement to all industries using formaldehyde as an airborne biocide:


“HSE therefore recommends that users start to look into the development of alternative gaseous disinfectants for rooms and equipment, whilst there is time to do so” (Biological Agents Bulletin, HSE, July 2015)


It is unclear whether a ban will materialise, but the mood throughout Europe in particular would suggest that a ban is warranted.


Mutagenic and carcinogenic properties are not the only problematic issues with formaldehyde.  Gassing cycles are lengthy, with need for extensive residue clean up and unpleasant odours prevailing.


The Howorth BioGen decontamination unit uses safer VHP-U

VHP-U™ technology, generating vapourised hydrogen peroxide is a highly viable alternative to formaldehyde with proven efficacy, but does not have formaldehyde’s, mutagenic, or carcinogen properties.  Hydrogen peroxide vapour decomposes to water and oxygen and is residue-free and odourless. Unlike formaldehyde, gas cycling times are very short, typically less than 3 hours for a 160m³ room and can be validated or requalified instantly using Enzyme Indicators.


If you are currently using formaldehyde in your bio decontamination regime, ask for more information regarding the BioGen™ Duo VHP-U™ system, we will be happy to discuss demonstrating the system at your facility.


For further information, please contact us.