Risk assessment methodologies for passive smoking-induced lung cancer

Risk Anal. 1990 Mar;10(1):27-37. doi: 10.1111/j.1539-6924.1990.tb01017.x.


Risk assessment methodologies have been successfully applied to control societal risk from outdoor air pollutants. They are now being applied to indoor air pollutants such as environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) and radon. Nonsmokers' exposures to ETS have been assessed based on dosimetry of nicotine, its metabolite, continine, and on exposure to the particulate phase of ETS. Lung cancer responses have been based on both the epidemiology of active and of passive smoking. Nine risk assessments of nonsmokers' lung cancer risk from exposure to ETS have been performed. Some have estimated risks for lifelong nonsmokers only; others have included ex-smokers; still others have estimated total deaths from all causes. To facilitate interstudy comparison, in some cases lung cancers had to be interpolated from a total, or the authors' original estimate had to be adjusted to include ex-smokers. Further, all estimates were adjusted to 1988. Excluding one study whose estimate differs from the mean of the others by two orders of magnitude, the remaining risk assessments are in remarkable agreement. The mean estimate is approximately 5000 +/- 2400 nonsmokers' lung cancer deaths (LCDSs) per year. This is a 25% greater risk to nonsmokers than is indoor radon, and is about 57 times greater than the combined estimated cancer risk from all the hazardous outdoor air pollutants currently regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency: airborne radionuclides, asbestos, arsenic, benzene, coke oven emissions, and vinyl chloride.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Epidemiologic Factors
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Lung Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Radon / adverse effects
  • Risk Factors
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution / adverse effects*
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution / analysis
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution / statistics & numerical data


  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution
  • Radon