DefinitionMean of modeled annual average formaldehyde concentration for census tracts in a county using 2017 NATA data.
NumeratorModeled mean formaldehyde concentration in micrograms per cubic meter
Why Is This Important?Formaldehyde, a colorless, pungent-smelling gas, is a chemical used widely to make building materials and numerous household products. It is formed in tobacco smoke, wood smoke and automobile exhaust. In outdoor air, formaldehyde is produced in the atmosphere through chemical reactions between other pollutants and sunlight.
Exposure to elevated levels of formaldehyde in air can cause watery eyes, burning sensations in the eyes and throat, nausea, difficulty in breathing, and asthma attacks. Formaldehyde is classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as carcinogenic to humans. Exposure may increase the risk of nasal cancers.
How Are We Doing?All New Jersey counties exceed the health benchmark of 0.077 micrograms of formaldehyde per cubic meter of air. The highest ambient air concentration can be found in the northeast counties. Formaldehyde air concentrations throughout the state are also influenced by out-of-state emissions from both stationary and mobile sources.
What Is Being Done?In the outdoor environment, formaldehyde is a byproduct of combustion and subject to the general controls on automobile and stationary sources. Industrial facilities that emit this chemical must obtain permits from the NJDEP Air Program and are also subject to state and federal air pollution control technology requirements.
Indoor exposures have been reduced significantly as the result of the elimination of urea formaldehyde foam as an insulating material. However, formaldehyde continues to be used in other products such as pressed wood furniture.