Air Quality Objectives for Formaldehyde

Formaldehyde is a simple volatile organic compound (VOC) containing a single carbon atom. Its chemical formula is HCHO. The substance is a colourless and flammable gas at room temperature and is characterized by a pungent odour at higher concentrations. Formaldehyde is a ubiquitous substance, produced by nature as well as human-caused processes. It is the product of incomplete combustion and is formed in the atmosphere by photochemical reactions.

Formaldehyde is used in many applications: as a sterilant in hospitals, as a preservative in consumer products, in permanent press fabrics, in paper products, and in adhesives for bonding particle board and plywood. It is a known human irritant.

Stimulated in large measure by the need to manage the emissions of formaldehyde from fibreboard plants that use formaldehyde-based adhesives, the Ministry of Environment, with assistance from the Ministry of Health, identified a two-tiered air-quality objective for formaldehyde.

The two-tiered objective comprises an "action level" and an "episode level." The action level is the target used when managing the level of formaldehyde in an airshed. The episode level corresponds to the concentration that starts to be of concern to the health of the general population; at this level it is recommended that immediate steps be taken to reduce the release of formaldehyde into the atmosphere.

Air Quality Objective: Formaldehyde

One-Hour Average Concentration at 25 degrees C and 101.3 kPa
Action Level 60 µg/m3
Episode Level 370 µg/m3