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Volatile Organic Compounds as Breath Biomarkers for Active and Passive Smoking

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Abstract: Real-time breath measurement technology was used to investigate the suitability of some volatile organic compounds (VOCs) to serve as breath biomarkers for active and passive smoking and to measure actual exposures and resulting breath concentrations for persons exposed to tobacco smoke. Experiments were conducted with five smoker/non-smoker pairs. The target VOCs included benzene, 1,3-butadiene, and the cigarette smoke biomarker 2,5-dimethylfuran. The approach adopted was to have pairs of volunteers in a small, unventilated room, one smoker and one non-smoker, and to have the smoker smoke three cigarettes in fairly quick succession. After each puff, the smoker exhaled into the room air to clear his/her lungs of smoke, and subsequent exhalations were measured using the continuous real-time breath analyzer until the occurrence of the next puff. A series of sawtooth curves resulted, representing the sharp increase and subsequent decrease of the target chemicals in the smoker's blood. After the final puff from each of the first three cigarettes, the longer-term decay of the compounds in the smoker's breath was monitored. The smoker then smoked a fourth and final cigarette, but this time the non-smoker's breath was monitored for the same chemicals. The uptake of the chemicals due to the cigarette smoke in the room was determined for the non-smoker.

This study includes what are believed to be the first measurements of 1,3-butadiene in smoker's and non-smoker's breath. The 1,3-butadiene and 2,5-dimethylfuran peak levels in the smokers' breath were similar (360 and 376 ug/m3, respectively) while the average benzene peak level was 522 ug/m3. The real-time breath analyzer also showed the presence of the chemicals after exposure in the breath of the non-smokers, but at greatly reduced levels. Single breath samples collected and analyzed independently, using evacuated canisters and gas chromatography/mass spectrometry, confirmed the presence of the target compounds in the post-exposure breath of the non-smokers, but indicated that there was some contamination of the breath analyzer measurements. This was likely due to desorption of organics from condensed "tar" in the analyzer tubing and on the quartz fiber filter used to remove particles. The decay data from the smokers were used to estimate residence times for the target chemicals. A two-compartment exponential model generally gave a better fit to the experimental decay data from the smokers than a single-compartment model. Residence times for benzene, 1,3-butadiene, and 2,5-dimethylfuran ranged from 0.5 (1,3-butadiene) to 0.9 min (benzene) for t1 and were essentially constant (14 min) for t2. These findings will be useful in models of environmental tobacco smoke exposure and risk.

The research described in this paper has been funded wholly or in part by the United States Environmental Protection Agency under Contract 68-D4-0023 to Battelle Memorial Institute. It has been subjected to Agency review and approved for publication. Mention of trade names or commercial products does not constitute endorsement or recommendation for use.
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Citation:Gordon, S. M., L. A. Wallace, M. C. Brinkman, P. J. Callahan, and D. V. Kenny. Volatile Organic Compounds as Breath Biomarkers for Active and Passive Smoking. ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH PERSPECTIVES 110(7):689-698, (2002).
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Contact: Liz Hope - (919) 541-2785 or hope.elizabeth@epa.gov
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Division: Human Exposure & Atmospheric Sciences Division
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Branch: Human Exposure Analysis Branch
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Product Type: Journal
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Published: 07/01/2002
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Related Entries:
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Bullet Item Use of Innovative Monitoring Techniques to Estimate Source Strengths and Decay Rates for Important Sources of Fine Particles: Application to Indoor Air and Personal Exposure Models
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