Formaldehyde is a highly toxic substance, whether by contact or inhalation, so much so that today it is considered to be one of the main culprits of so-called indoor pollution, which we are exposed to every day in closed areas, such as offices, shops and not least our home.
Since 2004, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has included it in its list of substances considered carcinogenic for humans and, since 1 January 2016, EU legislation (EU Regulation 605/2014) has restricted its use to within specific limits (0.1 mg/m3 of the average concentration in 30 minutes), while not completely eliminating the health risks for people who are particularly sensitive, such as children or people with allergies.
Awareness about these risks has prompted ECHA, the European Chemicals Agency, to put formaldehyde on the list of substances of very high concern (SVHC), which are substances that could have serious and often irreversible effects on human health and the environment. Its inclusion on the list is the first step towards the objective of tightening up the authorization limits on the use of this substance for companies.
Today, however, formaldehyde still continues to be widely used as a basic substance by the chemical industry and is applied to a wide variety of products, from building materials (foams, resin insulating materials) to pressed wood and MDF used for furnishings, furniture and parquet, as well as domestic detergents (thanks to its antibacterial power), cosmetics and even as a food preservative.
Even in the textiles industry, formaldehyde has traditionally been used for a wide range of different applications, such as stain repellents or “anti-stain” resins, which the fabrics are treated with to aid their maintenance. In addition, up until a few years ago, it was an inevitable by-product of all commercially available “wash-resistant” fireproof treatments. At least until COEX came along.
One of the objectives pursued during the long years of experimentation that led up to the development of this new fireproof technology was to completely eliminate the release of formaldehyde and other toxic substances (such as halogenated molecules) - both during the process and in the finished product - giving rise to a 100% natural derivative product. How?
By developing a technology that can modify the cellulose molecules present in fibres and vegetable compounds from the inside, making the materials permanently fireproof and, therefore, safer, without affecting the natural biodegradability of the starting material. The process does not provide for the use of fireproof chemical additives or fireproof resins that may come into contact with the skin and the environment.
Thanks to these properties, made of COEX fabrics are today the only fireproof products on the market suitable for GOTS Certification (Global Organic Textile Standard) certification , the most important international standard for textile products made with natural fibres from organic farming, and Oeko-Tex®, one of the most well-known certification and control systems in the world to ensure human and ecological safety in the textile products.
At the same time, COEX meets the highest standards of fireproof products and has a LOI rating* of 50, the highest on the market, much higher than other polyester or aramid fireproof fibres. With COEX, the cellulose, the most present biopolymer in nature, has become a 100% natural and safe material.
This revolution paves the way for new areas of application for fireproof fabrics, such as for bedding, children’s clothing or underwear. Industries where, up until now, it has been necessary to forego fire protection in order to preserve the characteristics of naturalness, comfort and non-toxicity of the fabrics and which today, in contrast, thanks to the COEX technology open up to a new quality of life where naturalness and safety coexist.
*LOI is the Oxygen Limit Index needed to spread the flame and expresses the intrinsic value of flammability of the fibre: the higher the value, the less flammable the fibre is.