Home Publications Formaldehyde scavengers for cleaner production: A case study focused on the leather industry

Formaldehyde scavengers for cleaner production: A case study focused on the leather industry

Marsal, A., Cuadros, S., Ollé, L., Bacardit, A., Manich, A.M., Font, J.

Journal of Cleaner Production, 186, pp. 45-56. 2018

 Due to its carcinogenic character, the presence of formaldehyde in leather continues to be a subject of great concern. By using formaldehyde scavengers, it is possible to reduce the formaldehyde content in leather. In this work, the potential ability of three different compounds (ethylene urea, pyrogallol and gallic acid) to reduce the formaldehyde content in splits leathers treated with formaldehyde resins (melamine-formaldehyde and dicyandiamide-formaldehyde) is assessed. This capacity is compared with that of a fourth scavenger (hydroxylamine sulphate) already used in tanneries. The evolution of the formaldehyde content with time is also considered, as well as the potential coadjuvant effect of other compounds such as mimosa extract and an acid dye (Acid Black 234). Hydroxylamine sulphate initially showed the highest ability to reduce formaldehyde content. However, after a certain time, this ability proved to be inferior to the ability of other compounds due to the reversibility of the reaction between hydroxylamine and formaldehyde. Pyrogallol showed a higher ability than gallic acid when used in the final wash of leather processing. However, the treatment with pyrogallol results in a darkening of the leather; this darkening limits its use. Gallic acid may be a good alternative to formic acid as the final fixing agent in leather processing when the presence of formaldehyde in leathers is suspected. The use of gallic acid in the final wash or as a fixing agent fulfils the formaldehyde content limit (65–75?mg/kg) of the major brands in leather goods in direct contact with the skin. The addition of 2% of gallic acid in the final wash of leather processing resulted in formaldehyde content reductions that varied from 65% to 85%. However, further experiments are required to assess the influence of gallic acid on the fastness properties and the coloration acquired by the treated leathers. The joint effect of gallic acid in the final wash or as a fixing agent and mimosa extract as a retanning agent in formaldehyde content reduction is even enhanced by subsequently using a dye with amino groups in its chemical structure. Reducing the formaldehyde content by using scavengers can contribute to the achievement of a cleaner production in those sectors (leather, textile, wood) that use formaldehyde resins.