Tob Control doi:10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2014-051635
  • Research paper

Fine particulate matter concentrations in smoking households: just how much secondhand smoke do you breathe in if you live with a smoker who smokes indoors?

Press Release
  1. John W Cherrie1,2
  1. 1Respiratory Group, Division of Applied Health Sciences, Scottish Centre for Indoor Air, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, UK
  2. 2Centre for Human Exposure Science, Institute of Occupational Medicine, Edinburgh, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Sean Semple, Scottish Centre for Indoor Air, University of Aberdeen, Room 29.04a, Royal Aberdeen Children's Hospital, Westburn Road, Aberdeen AB25 2ZD, Scotland; sean.semple{at}
  • Received 24 February 2014
  • Accepted 28 August 2014
  • Published Online First 20 October 2014


Objective Using data on fine particulate matter less than 2.5 μm (PM2.5) concentrations in smoking and non-smoking homes in Scotland to estimate the mass of PM2.5 inhaled by different age groups.

Methods Data from four linked studies, with real-time measurements of PM2.5 in homes, were combined with data on typical breathing rates and time-activity patterns. Monte Carlo modelling was used to estimate daily PM2.5 intake, the percentage of total PM2.5 inhaled within the home environment and the percentage reduction in daily intake that could be achieved by switching to a smoke-free home.

Results Median (IQR) PM2.5 concentrations from 93 smoking homes were 31 (10–111) μg/m3 and 3 (2–6.5) μg/m3 for the 17 non-smoking homes. Non-smokers living with smokers typically have average PM2.5 exposure levels more than three times higher than the WHO guidance for annual exposure to PM2.5 (10 μg/m3).

Conclusions Fine particulate pollution in Scottish homes where smoking is permitted is approximately 10 times higher than in non-smoking homes. Taken over a lifetime many non-smokers living with a smoker inhale a similar mass of PM2.5 as a non-smoker living in a heavily polluted city such as Beijing. Most non-smokers living in smoking households would experience reductions of over 70% in their daily inhaled PM2.5 intake if their home became smoke-free. The reduction is likely to be greatest for the very young and for older members of the population because they typically spend more time at home.

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