Formaldehyde Pollutant Air component air-Q

Formaldehyde (CH₂O)

Formaldehyde is a colourless, pungent-smelling substance that is gaseous at room temperature. Due to its use in adhesives, formaldehyde is very common in interiors today and is found in many wood-based materials and furniture.

Can be measured with:

Measurable (via the VOC gases substance group) with air-Q light, air-Q basic and air-Q pro as well as air-Q science or via the formaldehyde single sensor.


Formaldehyde (CH₂O) is a substance that is colourless but has a pungent odour. At ordinary temperature in a living space, it is gaseous. Originally, the substance was used as a preservative. As one of the most important organic basic substances in the chemical industry, the demand increased drastically with the discovery of plastics.

Formaldehyde can cause cancer or increase the incidence of cancer, according to the European Union.

Today, formaldehyde is an important starting material for many chemical compounds - for example adhesives and plastics. When these are burnt, it is released. CH₂O is highly soluble in water. The aqueous solution is called formalin and is used as a preservative and disinfectant.

In the past, many wood products were heavily spiked with it, such as chipboard and plywood. These materials regularly outgas formaldehyde. Modern adhesives largely manage without formaldehyde.

CH₂O limits:

The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) has set the tolerable concentration for CH₂O at 0.1 ppm (equivalent to 124 µg/m³). The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends a lower value of 0.08 ppm (0.1 mg/m³). A MAK value (maximum workplace concentration) of 0.3 ppm (0.37 mg/m³) applies. This MAK value will be replaced by a lower occupational exposure limit value (AGW value) in the future (status: January 2020).

Designationning Limit values formaldehyde
Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) 0.1 ppm (corresponds to 124 µg/m³)
WHO recommendation 0.08 ppm (corresponds to approx. 100 µg/m³)
MAK value (maximum workplace concentration) 0.3 ppm (corresponds to 370 µg/m³)

Formation of formaldehyde:

Formaldehyde is produced, for example, in mammalian cells as an intermediate product of metabolism. The blood of mammals constantly contains two to three milligrams of formaldehyde per litre. In humans, too, about 50 grams of the substance are formed per day and also quickly broken down again. With each breath, humans excrete about 0.001 to 0.01 mg/m³ of it.

Formaldehyde occurs naturally in fruits such as apples or grapes, which means that it is ingested through daily food. Formaldehyde is also a natural component of wood and diffuses outwards in small quantities.

Formaldehyde is also produced by incomplete combustion and other oxidation processes of longer-chain organic substances - such as methane and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Formaldehyde is also produced by smoking.

Formaldehyde is formed in the atmosphere by photo-oxidation (of methane) and has a concentration there of about 1 ppb (parts per billion).

Industrially, CH₂O is produced by the so-called catalytic oxidation of methanol.

Consequences of exposure:

Formaldehyde can cause allergies, respiratory or eye irritation and skin irritation in case of direct contact with liquid solutions. Danger to life exists from a concentration of 30 mg/m³. The substance may affect memory and concentration and cause sleep disturbances.

When formaldehyde or its predecessor methanol is ingested in low-quality alcoholic beverages, methanol is converted via formaldehyde into formic acid. Formaldehyde itself destroys retinal proteins particularly easily, which can lead to blindness.

Formaldehyde is classified as carcinogenic and mutagenic.

Formaldehydes form explosive mixtures with air (oxygen) above a concentration of 7 vol.% (87 g/m³) (=lower explosion limit (LEL)).

Sensor used:

Formaldehyde is measured by means of an electrochemical sensor. Molecules that "dock" on the surface of the sensor cause a change in the electrical current in the sensor. The advantage of our sensor is the individual sensitivity calibration by the manufacturer and the only very low cross-sensitivity to temperature and humidity.

Measure formaldehyde:

Measure the formaldehyde concentration and other components and pollutants of indoor air in real time to ensure their health and performance. Here you can order the air-Q as an air quality measuring device.

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Can formaldehyde still be used today?

Despite the carcinogenic effect of formaldehyde, it continues to be used within the limit values and can thus be found in furniture, carpentry boards, insulation materials, as well as paints and varnishes. In order to monitor limit values in one's own home, it is worthwhile to purchase a special air measuring device.

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How to measure formaldehyde?

With special air analyzers like the air-Q, you can measure formaldehyde indoors and protect yourself from it. As soon as the measured value exceeds the specified limit, the air analyzer issues an alarm or push notification.

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How dangerous is formaldehyde?

Formaldehyde is a colorless, pungent-smelling gas that is used, for example, in adhesives and is therefore found in many items of furniture. Formaldehyde is classified as carcinogenic by the European Union. It can irritate the respiratory tract and cause allergies. In addition, the ingestion of formaldehyde can cause blindness.
air-Q Air Quality Meter

Monitor air quality, all air components and environmental influences with the air-Q. For your health and performance.