Formaldehyde and volatile organic compounds in Hong Kong homes: concentrations and impact factors

Indoor Air. 2009 Jun;19(3):206-17. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0668.2008.00580.x. Epub 2009 Feb 7.


This paper presents formaldehyde and volatile organic compounds (VOC) concentrations, potential sources and impact factors in 100 homes. The 24-h average formaldehyde concentration in 37 homes exceeded the good class of the Hong Kong Indoor Air Quality Objectives (HKIAQO), whereas the total VOCs concentration in all homes was lower than the HKIAQO. Compared to other East Asian cities, indoor formaldehyde and styrene in Hong Kong was the highest, reflecting that the homes in Hong Kong were more affected by household products and materials. The formaldehyde concentration in newly built apartments was significantly higher than that in old buildings, whereas no relationship between the concentration and the building age was found for VOCs. There was no difference for formaldehyde and toluene between smoking and non-smoking homes, suggesting that cigarette smoking was not the major source of these two species. Homes of a couple with a child had higher formaldehyde and acetic acid concentrations, while homes with more than three people had higher concentrations of 1-butanol, heptane and d-limonene. When shoes were inside the homes, heptane, acetic acid, nonane and styrene concentrations were statistically higher than that when shoes were out of the homes. Furthermore, higher levels of 1,2,4-trimethylbenzene, styrene, nonane and heptane were found in gas-use families rather than in electricity-use homes.

Practical implications: Long-term exposure to formaldehyde and volatile organic compounds (VOC) in indoor environments may cause a number of adverse health effects such as asthma, dizziness, respiratory and lung diseases, and even cancers. Therefore, it is critical to minimize indoor air pollution caused by formaldehyde and VOCs. The findings obtained in this study would significantly enhance our understanding on the levels, emission sources and factors which affect indoor concentrations of formaldehyde and VOCs. The results can help housing designers, builders, home residents, and housing department of the government to improve indoor air quality (IAQ) by means of appropriate building materials, clean household products and proper life styles. It can also help policy makers reconcile the IAQ objectives and guidelines.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Air Pollution, Indoor / adverse effects
  • Air Pollution, Indoor / analysis*
  • Air Pollution, Indoor / prevention & control
  • Child
  • Construction Materials
  • Cooking
  • Formaldehyde / adverse effects
  • Formaldehyde / analysis*
  • Hong Kong
  • Housing
  • Humans
  • Shoes / adverse effects
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution / analysis
  • Volatile Organic Compounds / adverse effects
  • Volatile Organic Compounds / analysis*


  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution
  • Volatile Organic Compounds
  • Formaldehyde