In a recent study published in the International Journal of Drug Policy, researchers took samples from the homes of smokers, e-cigarette users and non-smokers to compare thirdhand exposure to nicotine.
According to the study abstract, nicotine deposited on surfaces has been known to react with airborne chemicals, leading to the formation of life-threatening carcinogens. In the midst of controversies of whether electronic cigarettes should be allowed in public places, authors Derek Bush and Marciej L. Goniewicz, of the Roswell Park Cancer Institute, in Buffalo, set out to examine nicotine residues in e-cigarette users’ homes and quantify thirdhand exposure to the addictive substance. While similar studies had been conducted in smokers’ homes before, this was the first to include living spaces of electronic cigarette users.
Professors Bush and Goniewicz measured nicotine residues in the households of 6 tobacco cigarettes smokers, 8 e-cigarette users and 8 non-users of nicotine-containing products, in Western New York. Three samples from the floor, walls and windows of each home were taken for examination and analyzed using gas chromatography.
Lab results revealed nicotine residues in all of the smokers’ homes, but only in half of those of electronic cigarette users. Researchers also found traces of nicotine on surfaces in non-smokers’ homes. The difference was in the amount of nicotine detected. Nicotine levels in e-cigarette users homes was significantly lower than that found in cigarette smokers homes (average concentration 7.7 ± 17.2 vs. 1,303 ± 2,676 μg/m2; p < 0.05). Sample analysis showed no significant difference in the amount of nicotine found in the homes of e-cigarette users and those of non-users.
“Using e-cigarettes indoors leads to significantly less thirdhand exposure to nicotine compared to smoking tobacco cigarettes,” the two scientists concluded.
Last year, Prof. Marciej L. Goniewicz showed that nicotine concentration in e-cigarette aerosol was considerably lower than that of cigarette smoke – 2.5 micrograms per cubic meter compared to 32 micrograms per cubic meter. His 2014 study also revealed that electronic cigarette vapor did not generate detectable levels of carbon monoxide or any of the 11 volatile organic compounds usually found in cigarette smoke.