Steven Sai Hang Ho1,2,3, Yan Cheng 4, Yi Bai4, Kin Fai Ho5, Wen Ting Dai1,2, Jun Ji Cao1,2, Shun Cheng Lee6, Yu Huang1,2, Ho Sai Simon Ip7, Wen Jing Deng8, Wei Guo4

  • 1 Key Lab of Aerosol Chemistry & Physics, Institute of Earth Environment, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Xi’an 710075, China
  • 2 The State Key Laboratory of Loess and Quaternary Geology, Institute of Earth and Environment, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Xi’an, Shaanxi, 710075, China
  • 3 Division of Atmospheric Sciences, Desert Research Institute, Reno, NV 89512, USA
  • 4 Department of Environmental Science and Technology, School of Human Settlements and Civil Engineering, Xi’an Jiaotong University, No.28 Xianning West Road, Xi'an, Shaanxi, 710049, China
  • 5 Jockey Club School of Public Health and Primary Care, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China
  • 6 Department of Civil and Structural Engineering, Research Center for Environmental Technology and Management, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hung Hom, Kowloon, Hong Kong, China
  • 7 Hong Kong Premium Services and Research Laboratory, Lai Chi Kok, Kowloon, Hong Kong
  • 8 Department of Science and Environmental Studies and Centre for Education for Environmental Sustainability, The Hong Kong Institute of Education, Tai Po, N.T., Hong Kong

Received: May 25, 2015
Revised: September 25, 2015
Accepted: January 11, 2016
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Cite this article:
Ho, S.S.H., Cheng, Y., Bai, Y., Ho, K.F., Dai, W.T., Cao, J.J., Lee, S.C., Huang, Y., Ip, H.S.S., Deng, W.J. and Guo, W. (2016). Risk Assessment of Indoor Formaldehyde and Other Carbonyls in Campus Environments in Northwestern China. Aerosol Air Qual. Res. 16: 1967-1980.


  • Hazardous carbonyls were measured in an university’s campus in Northern China.
  • Workplace carbonyls were produced by multiple sources.
  • Wooden furniture and lacquers elevated the indoor carbonyl levels.
  • Lifetime cancer hazard risk associated with formaldehyde were above the risk level.
  • The information serves as a reference for indoor air quality guidelines in China.



Risk assessment for indoor formaldehyde and other carbonyls was investigated at an university in Xi’an, Shaanxi, China. Eight representative locations, including six indoor workplaces and two residential units of staff apartments and a student dormitory, were chosen. The indoor pollution origins were identified according to the variability in molar composition and correlation analysis for the target species. Environmental tobacco smoke (ETS), cooking activities, and office technologies such as printers and copiers can produce different degrees of carbonyls in the workplace. A one-year demonstration study conducted in a apartment showed significance of the off-gases from lacquers and new wooden furniture. The concentrations of formaldehyde and acetaldehyde in the most sampling locations were above the recommended exposure limits, reflecting a potential health risk to workers and occupants. Chronic daily intake (CDI) and lifetime cancer hazard risk (R) were calculated to assess the carcinogenic risks of chronic exposure to the carbonyls. The R values for formaldehyde exceeded the alarm level of 1 × 10–6 in all sampled workplaces, but lower R values were associated with acetaldehyde. The results indicate that exposure of formaldehyde is a critical occupational health and safety concern. In addition, high risks associated with formaldehyde were also measured in the staff apartment, suggesting that the refurbishing materials and wooden furniture can potentially cause health impacts to occupants. The findings are informative to be referred in establishment of indoor air quality guidelines in China.

Keywords: Carbonyls; Indoor pollution; Cancer risk; University campus

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