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Health Indicator Report of Formaldehyde in Outdoor Air

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.


Data Source: National-scale Air Toxics Assessment (NATA), 2017 and NJDEP Division of Air Quality


Mean of modeled annual average formaldehyde concentration for census tracts in a county using 2017 NATA data.


Modeled mean formaldehyde concentration in micrograms per cubic meter



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.

Available Services

To view select air quality data collected at outdoor monitors across the United States go to: [] New Jersey County Risk Ratio tables can be found at the following URL: []
Page Content Updated On 03/17/2022, Published on 03/22/2022
The information provided above is from the Department of Health's NJSHAD web site ( The information published on this website may be reproduced without permission. Please use the following citation: " Retrieved Sat, 18 May 2024 22:12:50 from Department of Health, New Jersey State Health Assessment Data Web site: ".

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