Survey of 24-h personal formaldehyde exposures in geographically distributed urban office workers in the USA


An air sampling study was conducted to evaluate personal formaldehyde exposures in a group of office workers spread across five geographical locations in the USA. Passive badge samples for formaldehyde were collected on three participants in each location, as well as in the office and home indoor microenvironments of each participant over 3 individual days. Median personal 24-h formaldehyde concentrations ranged from 9.9 to 18 μg/m3. Personal 24-h formaldehyde concentrations in one location were significantly higher than concentrations measured in the other four locations; no significant differences existed between any of the other locations. The participants in this study spent an average of 53% of their daily time in their homes, 36% at their office, and 11% in other indoor and outdoor locations. A comparison of measured 24-h personal formaldehyde concentrations and a model of average exposure based upon measured concentrations in the indoor microenvironments suggested that both the home and office formaldehyde concentrations were a strong predictor (R2 = 0.88) of overall personal exposure. The data from this study are representative of office workers in urban environments and can be used as background formaldehyde exposure levels (in the absence of specific sources) for both occupational and nonoccupational exposure assessments.

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The authors would like to thank all of the volunteers for participating in the study and Mr. Kenneth Unice of Cardno ChemRisk for assistance with the data interpretation and input on the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Anders Abelmann.

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All authors are employed by Cardno ChemRisk, a consulting firm that provides scientific advice to the government, corporations, law firms, and various scientific/professional organizations. Cardno ChemRisk has been engaged by companies involved in formaldehyde litigation. All funding for the design of the study, the laboratory analysis, and the time invested by the authors to write this paper was provided by Cardno ChemRisk. No external funding was received for the study, the research supporting the analysis, nor the time needed to prepare the article.

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Abelmann, A., McEwen, A.R., Lotter, J.T. et al. Survey of 24-h personal formaldehyde exposures in geographically distributed urban office workers in the USA. Environ Sci Pollut Res 27, 17250–17257 (2020).

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  • Ambient air
  • Background concentration
  • Formaldehyde
  • Indoor air
  • Inhalation exposure
  • Passive monitoring
  • Personal exposure