Formaldehyde is an organic compound widely used in many industrial applications, such as the manufacturing of resins, production of disinfectants and biocides or like a tissue fixative. It is present in our atmosphere as a gas and its distribution in the air is not only linked to man-made sources (combustion of fuel, traffic, emission from industrial sites) but to natural sources too (e.g forest fires). Formaldehyde is toxic and volatile so, together with its widespread use, this organic compound represents a consistent danger for the human health.
The Copernicus Sentinel-5p mission has been designed for several applications and one of them is the air quality monitoring: thanks to the TROPOMI instrument carried on board several gas species are retrieved and so relevant data can be used in this respect. One of them is Formaldehyde.
The image above shows the concentration of formaldehyde in the troposphere and has been processed by Earth Starts Beating considering all the data acquired by TROPOMI in the first five months of 2019. The gas concentration is expressed in peta (10^5) molecules per square centimeters. This first color ramp has been chosen to basically highlight regions with high/very high concentration, showing hot spots of fires and human activity in general (e.g. Central Africa, India, Central America and Southeast Asia). The image below has been then processed with a different colormap, in order to return an higher contrast: in this way we can clearly see an higher concentration all over the continents (from green to red) and a lower density all over the seas or specific regions of the World: Himalaya, the Andean Mountains and the two Poles.
In the last decades formaldehyde has been linked to an increasing of cancer risk, where a large part of related cases are leukemia or brain cancers and refer to persons largely exposed (e.g. professional workers). Nowadays the use of this organic compound has been limited to specific applications: in the EU, the maximum allowed concentration of formaldehyde in finished products is 0.2%, and any product that exceeds 0.05% has to include a warning that the product contains formaldehyde.
Earth Starts Beating starts to publish formaldehyde world map on monthly basis on ESB Global Mapping app to keep an eye on its evolution through the months and the seasons. In this respect formaldehyde join a lot of others gas species and other optical data showed and offered by Earth Starts Beating.