Implications of Nicotine Sorption on Indoor Surfaces on its Use as a Marker for Environmental Tobacco Smoke

EPA Grant Number: U914980
Title: Implications of Nicotine Sorption on Indoor Surfaces on its Use as a Marker for Environmental Tobacco Smoke
Investigators: Van Loy, Michael D.
Institution: University of California - Berkeley
EPA Project Officer: Lee, Sonja
Project Period: January 1, 1996 through November 17, 1998
Project Amount: $102,000
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (1996) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Fellowship - Environmental Engineering , Academic Fellowships , Engineering and Environmental Chemistry


The objective of this research project is to employ recently developed models describing the interactions of gas-phase semivolatile organic compounds (SVOCs) with indoor surfaces to examine the effects of sorption on nicotine's suitability as an environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) marker. Nicotine has been widely used as a marker for ETS because its only significant source in indoor air is tobacco product combustion, it is easily detected, and different types of cigarettes emit it at similar rates. A strong correlation between nicotine concentrations and those of respirable suspended particles and other ETS constituents has been reported in real indoor environments where smoking occurs. However, other researchers have questioned the suitability of nicotine as a marker for ETS because of observations of differences between its dynamic behavior and that of other ETS constituents in laboratory chambers.


Using model parameters from previous studies of nicotine sorption on carpet and stainless steel, the dynamic behavior of nicotine was modeled in both a house and a laboratory test chamber. The results demonstrate that the previously reported observations are not contradictory, but may be explained by considering the effects of sorption under different experimental conditions. In indoor environments in which smoking occurs on a fairly regular basis for an extended period, the sorbed mass of nicotine becomes very large relative to the mass emitted by a single cigarette, and reemission from indoor surfaces becomes significant relative to direct emission. Where smoking occurs less regularly, the rate of sorbed mass reemission is unlikely to be large enough to significantly affect concentrations during periods of no smoking.

Supplemental Keywords:

fellowship, nicotine sorption, environmental tobacco smoke, ETS, indoor air, semivolatile organic compounds, SVOCs, tobacco product combustion, cigarette smoke., Scientific Discipline, Air, Environmental Chemistry, Indoor Air Pollution, indoor air, Environmental Engineering, tobacco, nicotine sorption, semivolatile organic compounds, cigarette smoke, environmental tobacco smoke, indoor air quality

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 1996
  • 1997
  • Final