Research ArticleENVIRONMENTAL STUDIES

Human transport of thirdhand tobacco smoke: A prominent source of hazardous air pollutants into indoor nonsmoking environments

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science Advances  04 Mar 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 10, eaay4109
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aay4109

Abstract

The contamination of indoor nonsmoking environments with thirdhand smoke (THS) is an important, poorly understood public health concern. Real-time THS off-gassing from smokers into a nonsmoking movie theater was observed with online and offline high-resolution mass spectrometry. Prominent emission events of THS tracers (e.g., 2,5-dimethylfuran, 2-methylfuran, and acetonitrile) and other tobacco-related volatile organic compounds (VOCs) coincided with the arrival of certain moviegoers and left residual contamination. These VOC emission events exposed occupants to the equivalent of 1 to 10 cigarettes of secondhand smoke, including multiple hazardous air pollutants (e.g., benzene and formaldehyde) at parts-per-billion concentrations. Nicotine and related intermediate-volatility nitrogen-containing compounds, which vaporized from clothes/bodies and recondensed onto aerosol, comprised 34% of observed functionalized organic aerosol abundance. Exposure to THS VOC emission events will be considerably enhanced in poorly ventilated or smaller spaces in contrast with a large, well-ventilated theater—amplifying concentrations and potential impacts on health and indoor chemistry.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, so long as the resultant use is not for commercial advantage and provided the original work is properly cited.

View Full Text

Stay Connected to Science Advances