Urinary Biomarkers of Exposure to Volatile Organic Compounds from the Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health Study Wave 1 (2013-2014)

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 Jul 28;17(15):5408. doi: 10.3390/ijerph17155408.


Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are ubiquitous in the environment. In the United States (U.S.), tobacco smoke is the major non-occupational source of exposure to many harmful VOCs. Exposure to VOCs can be assessed by measuring their urinary metabolites (VOCMs). The Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health (PATH) Study is a U.S. national longitudinal study of tobacco use in the adult and youth civilian non-institutionalized population. We measured 20 VOCMs in urine specimens from a subsample of adults in Wave 1 (W1) (2013-2014) to characterize VOC exposures among tobacco product users and non-users. We calculated weighted geometric means (GMs) and percentiles of each VOCM for exclusive combustible product users (smokers), exclusive electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) users, exclusive smokeless product users, and tobacco product never users. We produced linear regression models for six VOCMs with sex, age, race, and tobacco user group as predictor variables. Creatinine-ratioed levels of VOCMs from exposure to acrolein, crotonaldehyde, isoprene, acrylonitrile, and 1,3-butadiene were significantly higher in smokers than in never users. Small differences of VOCM levels among exclusive e-cigarette users and smokeless users were observed when compared to never users. Smokers showed higher VOCM concentrations than e-cigarette, smokeless, and never users. Urinary VOC metabolites are useful biomarkers of exposure to harmful VOCs.

Keywords: PATH Study; e-cigarette users; smokeless tobacco users; tobacco smoke exposure; volatile organic compound metabolites.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Biomarkers / urine
  • Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems*
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Nicotiana
  • Tobacco Products*
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Volatile Organic Compounds*


  • Biomarkers
  • Volatile Organic Compounds