Cabin air quality: indoor pollutants and climate during intercontinental flights with and without tobacco smoking

Indoor Air. 2002 Dec;12(4):263-72. doi: 10.1034/j.1600-0668.2002.01121.x.


The aim was to determine cabin air quality and in-flight exposure for cabin attendants of specific pollutants during intercontinental flights. Measurements of air humidity, temperature, carbon dioxide (CO2), respirable particles, ozone (O3), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and formaldehyde were performed during 26 intercontinental flights with Boeing 767-300 with and without tobacco smoking onboard. The mean temperature in cabin was 22.2 degrees C (range 17.4-26.8 degrees C), and mean relative air humidity was 6% (range 1-27%). The CO2 concentration during cruises was below the recommended limit of 1000 ppm during 96% of measured time. Mean indoor concentration of NO2 and O3, were 14.1 and 19.2 micrograms/m3, with maximum values of 37 and 66 micrograms/m3, respectively. The concentration of formaldehyde was below the detection limit (< 5 micrograms/m3), in most samples (77%), and the maximum value was 15 micrograms/m3. The mean concentration of respirable particles in the rear part of the aircraft (AFT galley area) was much higher (49 micrograms/m3) during smoking as compared with non-smoking conditions (3 micrograms/m3) (P < 0.001), with maximum values of 253 and 7 micrograms/m3. In conclusion, air humidity is very low on intercontinental flights, and the large variation of temperature shows a need for better temperature control. Tobacco smoking onboard leads to a significant pollution of respirable particles, particularly in the rear part of the cabin. The result supports the view that despite the high air exchange rate and efficient air filtration, smoking in commercial aircraft leads to a significant pollution and should be prohibited.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollution, Indoor / analysis*
  • Aircraft*
  • Carbon Dioxide / analysis
  • Climate*
  • Disinfectants / analysis
  • Formaldehyde / analysis
  • Humans
  • Humidity
  • Occupational Exposure*
  • Temperature
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution / analysis*


  • Disinfectants
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution
  • Carbon Dioxide
  • Formaldehyde