Primary and secondary sources of ambient formaldehyde in the Yangtze River Delta based on Ozone Mapping and Profiler Suite (OMPS) observations

Wenjing Su, Cheng Liu, Qihou Hu, Shaohua Zhao, Youwen Sun, Wei Wang, Yizhi Zhu, Jianguo Liu, Jhoon Kim

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54 Citations (Scopus)


Formaldehyde (HCHO) in the ambient air not only causes cancer but is also an ideal indicator of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are major precursors of ozone (O3) and secondary organic aerosol (SOA) near the surface. It is meaningful to differentiate between the direct emission and the secondary formation of HCHO for HCHO pollution control and sensitivity studies of O3 production. However, understanding of the sources of HCHO is still poor in China, due to the scarcity of field measurements (both spatially and temporally). In this study, tropospheric HCHO vertical column densities (VCDs) in the Yangtze River Delta (YRD), East China, where HCHO pollution is serious, were retrieved from the Ozone Mapping and Profiler Suite (OMPS) onboard the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (Suomi-NPP) satellite from 2014 to 2017; these retrievals showed good agreement with the tropospheric HCHO columns measured using ground-based high-resolution Fourier transform infrared spectrometry (FTS) with a correlation coefficient (R) of 0.78. Based on these results, the cancer risk was estimated both nationwide and in the YRD region. It was calculated that at least 7840 people in the YRD region would develop cancer in their lives due to outdoor HCHO exposure, which comprised 23.4% of total national cancer risk. Furthermore, the contributions of primary and secondary sources were apportioned, in addition to primary and secondary tracers from surface observations. Overall, the HCHO from secondary formation contributed most to ambient HCHO and can be regarded as the indicator of VOC reactivity in Hangzhou and in urban areas of Nanjing and Shanghai from 2015 to 2017, due to the strong correlation between total HCHO and secondary HCHO. At industrial sites in Nanjing, primary emissions more strongly influenced ambient HCHO concentrations in 2015 and showed an obvious decreasing trend. Seasonally, HCHO from secondary formation reached a maximum in summer and a minimum in winter. In the spring, summer, and autumn, secondary formation had a significant effect on the variation of ambient HCHO in urban regions of Nanjing, Hangzhou, and Shanghai, whereas in the winter the contribution from secondary formation became less significant. A more thorough understanding of the variation of the primary and secondary contributions of ambient HCHO is needed to develop a better knowledge regarding the role of HCHO in atmospheric chemistry and to formulate effective control measures to decrease HCHO pollution and the associated cancer risk.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6717-6736
Number of pages20
JournalAtmospheric Chemistry and Physics
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2019 May 20

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgements. This work was supported by National Key Research and Development Program of China (grant nos. 2017YFC0210002, 2018YFC0213104, 2018YFC0213100, and 2016YFC0203302), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (grant nos. 41722501, 91544212, 51778596, and 41575021), and the National High-Resolution Earth Observation Project of China (grant no. 05-Y20A16-9001-15/17-2). The authors acknowledge the OMPS project for making the OMPS-NPP Nadir Mapper Earth View Level 1B data product available online. We also thank the Ministry of Environment Protection of the People’s Republic of China for making data measured by the atmospheric environment automatic monitoring stations available online.

Publisher Copyright:
© Author(s) 2019.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


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