Thirdhand smoke: heterogeneous oxidation of nicotine and secondary aerosol formation in the indoor environment

Environ Sci Technol. 2011 Jan 1;45(1):328-33. doi: 10.1021/es102060v. Epub 2010 Dec 8.


Tobacco smoking is well-known as a significant source of primary indoor air pollutants. However, only recently has thirdhand smoke (THS) been recognized as a contributor to indoor pollution due to the role of indoor surfaces. Here, the effects of relative humidity (<10% RH and ∼ 45% RH) and substrate (cellulose, cotton, and paper) on secondary organic aerosol (SOA) formation from nicotine-ozone-NO(x) reactions are discussed. SOA formation from the sorbed nicotine-ozone reaction ([O(3)] = 55 ppb) varied in size distribution and number, depending on RH and substrate type, indicating the role of substrate and water interactions in SOA formation. This led to SOA yields from cellulose sorbed nicotine-ozone reaction of ∼ 1 and 2% for wet and dry conditions, respectively. SOA formation from nicotine-NO(x) reactions was not distinguishable from background levels. Simultaneously, cellulose sorbed nicotine-ozone reaction kinetics ([O(3)] = 55 ppb) were obtained and revealed pseudofirst-order surface rate constants of k(1) = (1 ± 0. 5) × 10(-3) and k(1) < 10(-4) min(-1) under <10% and ∼ 45% RH, respectively. Given the toxicity of some of the identified products and that small particles may contribute to adverse health effects, the present study indicates that exposure to THS ozonation products may pose additional health risks.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aerosols / analysis*
  • Aerosols / chemistry
  • Air Pollutants / analysis*
  • Air Pollutants / chemistry
  • Air Pollution, Indoor / analysis*
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Humidity
  • Kinetics
  • Nicotine / analysis*
  • Nicotine / chemistry
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Surface Properties
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution / analysis*


  • Aerosols
  • Air Pollutants
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution
  • Nicotine