Indoor Air Pollution: An Evaluation of Three Agents
Environmental Tobacco Smoke
Environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) is the particulate matter that is emitted either directly from a tobacco product or exhaled by a smoker. It is comprised of mainstream smoke or that which is exhaled by a smoker and side stream smoke that is emitted directly from the burning tobacco product. There are approximately 4,000 individual compounds that make up tobacco smoke, including formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, benzene, and ammonia (1).
ETS contains most of the same compounds that a smoker is exposed to, including some forty to sixty carcinogenic or potentially carcinogenic compounds. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has classified ETS as a Group A carcinogen meaning that is does cause cancer in humans.
Fate and Transport
The persistence of ETS in the indoor environment can vary depending on the size of the room and the air exchange rate. In a low-exchange environment, ETS may be slow to disseminate and persist in the environment. Similarly, in an area with greater ventilation, ETS may be diluted more quickly. Some studies have shown higher consistent levels of ETS when air is re-circulated such as in air conditioned environments. Generally, ETS in an indoor environment is measured in terms of hours (1).
ETS can be monitored in the indoor environment using two different types of monitoring; personal and stationary monitors (1). Personal monitors can be worn by an individual to capture the particulate that they come into contact with and analyzed for constituents commonly found in ETS. These monitors must be worn in the breathing zone and are only useful in determining individual exposures due to various activities that might take place outside of the indoor environment.
Human exposure to ETS occurs through breathing contaminated air. Once in the lungs, certain chemical compounds contained in the smoke may be absorbed into the bloodstream through lung tissue. ETS can also come in contact with mucosal membranes in the nose and eyes. Exposures may be acute or chronic and children or people with respiratory illnesses may be especially sensitive to ETS.
Human exposure to ETS can be measured in ways much like those used to measure other indoor air pollutants. But due to the nature of ETS and its sources, there may be significant variability in some monitoring procedures. The amount of smoking that an individual is exposed to, the length of time during which someone is exposed to ETS, and the volume of the room in which they are exposed may affect the degree of accuracy achieved in human exposure monitoring. Time scales are very important for ETS when looking at correlations to health effects (1).
Several individual actions can limit the amount of ETS exposure non-smokers receive by:
If you dont currently have a smoke-free workplace, you may want to lobby the employer to see if they would designate an appropriate smoking area or verify that they are in fact compliant with state or federal regulations regarding smoking in the workplace.