Uptake of nicotine in hair during controlled environmental air exposure to nicotine vapour: evidence for a major contribution of environmental nicotine to the overall nicotine found in hair from smokers and non-smokers

Pharmacol Toxicol. 1994 Sep-Oct;75(3-4):136-42. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0773.1994.tb00336.x.


Hair from smokers and non-smokers has been exposed in a dynamic exposure chamber to air nicotine concentrations ranging from 1.5 to 45 and from 20 to 2000 micrograms/m3 for 8 weeks and 72 hr, respectively. Accumulated hair nicotine was quantified by GC/MS. Hair was also collected for direct measurements of nicotine in 0-2, 2-4 and 4-6 cm segments from the scalp. Human hair showed a high affinity for air nicotine and the chamber experiments revealed a linear relationship between the initial hair uptake rates of nicotine and the duration of exposure at all air nicotine concentrations applied. Hair nicotine uptake rate decreased with time after 4 to 6 weeks exposure to 15 and 45 micrograms/m3 air concentrations of nicotine, but not to the 1.5 micrograms/m2 nicotine concentration. Ratio between the hair uptake rate of nicotine and the applied air concentration of nicotine decreased with increasing air concentrations of nicotine. Segment analysis of hair revealed an outward increasing gradient of nicotine in hair. Hair uptake pattern of air nicotine suggests the uptake to be governed by an equilibrium between nicotine in air and nicotine on the hair surface, possibly combined with a slower diffusion process of nicotine from the hair surface into the hair core. The hair segment analysis of nicotine indicates that environmental nicotine is the dominating contributor to the overall nicotine found in hair both from smokers and non-smokers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Environment, Controlled
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Hair / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nicotine / adverse effects
  • Nicotine / pharmacokinetics*
  • Smoking / metabolism*
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution / adverse effects*
  • Volatilization


  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution
  • Nicotine