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Environ Health Perspect. 1999 May; 107(Suppl 2): 349–355.
PMCID: PMC1566286
Research Article

Biomarkers of environmental tobacco smoke exposure.


Biomarkers are desirable for quantitating human exposure to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) and for predicting potential health risks for exposed individuals. A number of biomarkers of ETS have been proposed. At present cotinine, measured in blood, saliva, or urine, appears to be the most specific and the most sensitive biomarker. In nonsmokers with significant exposure to ETS, cotinine levels in the body are derived primarily from tobacco smoke, can be measured with extremely high sensitivity, and reflect exposure to a variety of types of cigarettes independent of machine-determined yield. Under conditions of sustained exposure to ETS (i.e., over hours or days), cotinine levels reflect exposure to other components of ETS. Supporting the validity of cotinine as a biomarker, cotinine levels have been positively correlated to the risks of some ETS-related health complications in children who are not cigarette smokers.

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