Passive smoking at work: biochemical and biological measures of exposure to environmental tobacco smoke

Int Arch Occup Environ Health. 1987;59(4):337-45. doi: 10.1007/BF00405277.


Several biochemical and biological measures of tobacco smoke intake were used to evaluate exposure of restaurant personnel to environmental tobacco smoke as compared with active smokers and non-exposed non-smokers. All of the measured parameters--carboxyhaemoglobin (COHb), thiocyanate (SCN) and cotinine in plasma, cotinine and mutagenicity in urine, total white blood cell count (WBC), and sister chromatid exchange (SCE) frequency in cultured lymphocytes--were significantly elevated in the smoker group (n = 22) compared to the non-exposed group (n = 20). Work-related passive exposure (n = 27) was seen most clearly in the cotinine values, both from plasma (mean P-cot in passive smokers 10 ng/ml vs 5.2 ng/ml in non-exposed) and from urine (mean U-cot in passive smokers 56 ng/ml vs 8.3 ng/ml in non-exposed), but significant increases were also seen in the thiocyanate levels (mean P-SNC in passive smokers 58 mumol/l vs 46 mumol/l in non-exposed) and, as a preliminary finding, in total leucocyte count (in passive smokers 8.0 X 10(9)/l vs 6.8 X 10(9)/l in non-exposed). The results demonstrate that environmental tobacco smoke may be an occupational health hazard.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Carboxyhemoglobin / blood
  • Cotinine / blood
  • Cotinine / urine
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leukocyte Count
  • Lymphocytes / ultrastructure
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mutagens / analysis
  • Occupational Diseases / etiology*
  • Restaurants*
  • Sister Chromatid Exchange
  • Thiocyanates / blood
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution / adverse effects*


  • Mutagens
  • Thiocyanates
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution
  • Carboxyhemoglobin
  • Cotinine
  • thiocyanate