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Improving the Accuracy of Air Monitoring for Formaldehyde

Challenge

Exposure to formaldehyde in ambient air poses one of the greatest risks for cancer among the air toxics. It also plays a key role in the formation of ground-level ozone and smog. Compendium Method TO-11A has long been considered the “gold standard” for monitoring carbonyls such as formaldehyde in ambient air. However, this method has known technical limitations; in particular, the presence of ozone, nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and water can interfere with accurate measurement of formaldehyde and other carbonyls. 

Solution

Battelle has systematically investigated the performance of TO-11A with the goal of updating guidance on how best to implement this critical air monitoring technique. At the same time, we are working with Ohio State University (OSU) to design, construct, test and evaluate a real-time, continuous air monitoring instrument based on submillimeter wave spectroscopy for measuring trace levels of airborne formaldehyde.  

Outcome

Battelle’s research led to new recommendations for how best to implement TO-11A so as to increase the accuracy of formaldehyde measurements. The new instrument under development with OSU may provide even greater accuracy and improved low-level detection. Ultimately, this new technology could replace TO-11A for the measurement of formaldehyde and other carbonyl compounds in ambient air.