Identification and quantification of electronic cigarette exhaled aerosol residue chemicals in field sites

Environ Res. 2019 Mar;170:351-358. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2018.12.027. Epub 2018 Dec 16.


Background: Electronic cigarette (EC) users may exhale large clouds of aerosol that can settle on indoor surfaces forming ECEAR (EC exhaled aerosol residue). Little is known about the chemical composition or buildup of this residue.

Objective: Our objective was to identify and quantify ECEAR chemicals in two field sites: an EC user's living room and a multi-user EC vape shop.

Methods: We examined the buildup of ECEAR in commonly used materials (cotton, polyester, or terrycloth towel) placed inside the field sites. Materials were subjected to different lengths of exposure. Nicotine, nicotine alkaloids, and tobacco-specific nitrosamines (TSNAs) were identified and quantified in unexposed controls and field site samples using analytical chemical techniques.

Results: Nicotine and nicotine alkaloids were detected in materials inside the EC user's living room. Concentrations of ECEAR chemicals remained relatively constant over the first 5 months, suggesting some removal of the chemicals by air flow in the room approximating a steady state. ECEAR chemicals were detected in materials inside the vape shop after 6 h of exposure and levels continually increased over a month. By 1 month, the nicotine in the vape shop was 60 times higher than in the EC user's living room. ECEAR chemical concentrations varied in different locations in the vape shop. Control fabrics had either no detectable or very low concentrations of chemicals.

Conclusions: In both field sites, chemicals from exhaled EC aerosols were deposited on indoor surfaces and accumulated over time forming ECEAR. Non-smokers, EC users, and employees of vape shops should be aware of this potential environmental hazard.

Keywords: Electronic cigarette; Environmental hazard; Nicotine; Passive exposure; Vape shop.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aerosols / analysis*
  • Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems*
  • Nicotine
  • Tobacco Products*
  • Vaping*


  • Aerosols
  • Nicotine