Estimated Exposure Risks from Carcinogenic Nitrosamines in Urban Airborne Particulate Matter

Environ Sci Technol. 2015 Aug 18;49(16):9648-56. doi: 10.1021/acs.est.5b01620. Epub 2015 Aug 10.


Organic nitrogen (ON) compounds are present in atmospheric particulate matter (PM), but compared to their inorganic, hydrocarbon, and oxygenated counterparts, they are difficult to characterize due to their low concentrations in complex matrices. Nitrosamines are a class of ON compounds known to be highly carcinogenic and include species formed from nicotine degradation, but there are no detailed estimates of their abundance in ambient air. We use a highly sensitive analytical method, which is capable of separating over 700 ON compounds, to determine daily variability in nicotine, and 8 nonspecific and 4 tobacco-specific nitrosamines in ambient PM from central London over two periods in winter and summer. The average total nitrosamine concentration was 5.2 ng m(-3), substantially exceeding a current public recommendation of 0.3 ng m(-3) on a daily basis. The lifetime cancer risk from nitrosamines in urban PM exceeded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency guideline of 1 excess cancer case per 1 million population exposed after 1 h of exposure to observed concentrations per day over the duration of an adult lifetime. A clear relationship between ambient nitrosamines and total PM2.5 was observed with 1.9 ng m(-3) ± 2.6 ng m(-3) (total nitrosamine) per 10 μg m(-3) PM2.5.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants / analysis
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods
  • Humans
  • Hydrocarbons / analysis
  • London
  • Neoplasms / chemically induced
  • Nitrosamines / analysis*
  • Nitrosamines / toxicity
  • Particulate Matter / analysis*
  • Particulate Matter / toxicity
  • Risk Assessment / methods*
  • Seasons
  • United States


  • Air Pollutants
  • Hydrocarbons
  • Nitrosamines
  • Particulate Matter