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Air Monitoring

SHS concentrations in indoor air can be estimated by measuring fine particles (PM2.5), nicotine, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, acrolein, nitrogen dioxide and many other components of tobacco smoke. Here we focus on air nicotine and PM2.5, two of the most commonly measured tobacco smoke-related indoor air pollutants.

Air Nicotine Monitoring
Nicotine has become a widely used marker of tobacco smoke in the air because it is easily measured and highly specific to tobacco smoke1. Although nicotine is not the most harmful component of tobacco smoke, it is well-correlated with the amount of smoking occurring, and is therefore a useful marker of tobacco smoke exposure2. Measurements of SHS concentration with airborne nicotine are made by passive sampling, a method that does not rely on mechanized air pumping. The sampling device is a small, lightweight, circular plastic badge containing a filter. The filter is treated with sodium bisulfate, and as air passes through it, nicotine in the air is absorbed into the filter2. After the monitors have been in place for a period of time in the location of interest, they are sent to a laboratory where the nicotine is extracted from the filter and the collected amount is measured.

Particulate Matter (PM2.5) Monitoring
Tobacco smoke contains high concentrations of fine particulate matter with a diameter of 2.5 microns or less4. Devices for measuring PM2.5 in the air, such as the TSI SidePak AM510 Personal Aerosol Monitor, are active samplers. The SidePak uses a pump to draw air and measure the real-time concentration of air particles in milligrams per cubic meter5. PM2.5 is measured because particles of this size are easily inhaled deeply into the lung and particulate matter levels in air can be compared to regulatory standards for outdoor air. A limitation of particulate matter measurement, however, is that it is a nonspecific marker of tobacco smoke, as many sources other than tobacco smoke, such as cooking, can add small particles to indoor air1. Background concentrations should therefore be measured, and information on other sources should be collected.

1 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2006; Jenkins RA, et al. 2000
2 Hammond and Leaderer, 1987.
3 Nebot et al., 2005
4 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2006 and 1986 International Agency for Research on Cancer,  2004
5 TSI SidePak AM510 Personal Aerosol Monitor Operation Manual, 2008.


This project is funded by the Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use and the Flight Attendant Medical Research Institute (FAMRI), developed in consultation with Roswell Park Cancer Institute and the University of Southern California, Institute for Global Health.