Electronic cigarettes are a source of thirdhand exposure to nicotine

  • Goniewicz M
  • Lee L
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INTRODUCTION: Substances remaining on the surfaces in areas where people have smoked contribute to thirdhand exposure. Nicotine from tobacco smoke has been shown to react with oxidizing chemicals in the air to form secondary pollutants, such as carcinogenic nitrosamines. While previous studies have demonstrated thirdhand exposure to nicotine from tobacco smoke, none has investigated whether nicotine from electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) can also be deposited on various surfaces.

METHODS: Three brands of e-cigarettes were refilled with varying nicotine concentrations. We released 100 puffs from each product directly into an exposure chamber. Surface wipe samples were taken from five indoor 100cm(2) surfaces (window, walls, floor, wood, and metal) pre and post release of vapors. Nicotine was extracted from the wipes and analyzed using gas chromatography.

RESULTS: Three of four experiments showed significant increases in the amount of nicotine on all five surfaces. The floor and glass windows had the greatest increases in nicotine, on average by a factor of 47 and 6, respectively (p < .05). The average amount of nicotine deposited on a floor during each experiment was 205 μg/m(2), and varied from limit of quantitation to 550 μg/m(2).

CONCLUSIONS: This study indicates that there is a risk of thirdhand exposure to nicotine from e-cigarettes. Thirdhand exposure levels differ depending on the surface and e-cigarette brand. Future research should explore the potential risks of thirdhand exposure to carcinogens formed from nicotine released from e-cigarettes.

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  • Maciej L. Goniewicz

  • Lily Lee

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