Article Text

Download PDFPDF

Environmental monitoring of secondhand smoke exposure
  1. Benjamin J Apelberg1,
  2. Lisa M Hepp2,
  3. Erika Avila-Tang1,3,
  4. Lara Gundel4,
  5. S Katharine Hammond5,
  6. Melbourne F Hovell6,
  7. Andrew Hyland7,
  8. Neil E Klepeis8,
  9. Camille C Madsen2,
  10. Ana Navas-Acien9,
  11. James Repace10,
  12. Jonathan M Samet11,
  13. Patrick N Breysse9
  1. 1Department of Epidemiology, Institute for Global Tobacco Control, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, USA
  2. 2Department of Health, Behaviour, and Society, Institute for Global Tobacco Control, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland, USA
  3. 3American Academy of Pediatrics Julius B. Richmond Center of Excellence, Elk Grove Village, Illinois, USA
  4. 4Department of Indoor Environment, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, California, USA
  5. 5School of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley, California, USA
  6. 6Center for Behavioural Epidemiology and Community Health, San Diego State University, San Diego, California, USA
  7. 7Department of Health Behaviour, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Buffalo, New York, USA
  8. 8Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, California, USA
  9. 9Department of Environmental Health Sciences, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland, USA
  10. 10Secondhand Smoke Consultants, Repace Associates, Inc, Bowie, Maryland, USA
  11. 11Department of Preventive Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Patrick N Breysse, Department of Environmental Health Sciences, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, 615N. Wolfe St, Baltimore, Maryland 21205, USA; pbreysse{at}


The complex composition of secondhand smoke (SHS) provides a range of constituents that can be measured in environmental samples (air, dust and on surfaces) and therefore used to assess non-smokers' exposure to tobacco smoke. Monitoring SHS exposure (SHSe) in indoor environments provides useful information on the extent and consequences of SHSe, implementing and evaluating tobacco control programmes and behavioural interventions, and estimating overall burden of disease caused by SHSe. The most widely used markers have been vapour-phase nicotine and respirable particulate matter (PM). Numerous other environmental analytes of SHS have been measured in the air including carbon monoxide, 3-ethenylpyridine, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, tobacco-specific nitrosamines, nitrogen oxides, aldehydes and volatile organic compounds, as well as nicotine in dust and on surfaces. The measurement of nicotine in the air has the advantage of reflecting the presence of tobacco smoke. While PM measurements are not as specific, they can be taken continuously, allowing for assessment of exposure and its variation over time. In general, when nicotine and PM are measured in the same setting using a common sampling period, an increase in nicotine concentration of 1 μg/m3 corresponds to an average increase of 10 μg/m3 of PM. This topic assessment presents a comprehensive summary of SHSe monitoring approaches using environmental markers and discusses the strengths and weaknesses of these methods and approaches.

  • Secondhand smoke exposure
  • environmental monitoring
  • nicotine
  • particulate matter
  • methods

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial License, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non commercial and is otherwise in compliance with the license. See: and

View Full Text

Statistics from


  • Funding This work was supported by grants from the Flight Attendant Medical Research Institute to the Johns Hopkins Center of Excellence; the University of California, San Francisco Bland Lane Center of Excellence; and the American Academy of Pediatrics Julius B Richmond Center of Excellence. The funding organisation had no role in the preparation of the manuscripts.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.

Linked Articles