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Sci Adv. 2018 May 9;4(5):eaap8368. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.aap8368. eCollection 2018 May.

Thirdhand smoke uptake to aerosol particles in the indoor environment.

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Department of Civil, Architectural, and Environmental Engineering, Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.
Department of Chemistry, Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.


Aerosol composition measurements made in an indoor classroom indicate the uptake of thirdhand smoke (THS) species to indoor particles, a novel exposure route for THS to humans indoors. Chemical speciation of the organic aerosol fraction using mass spectrometric data and factor analysis identified a reduced nitrogen component, predominantly found in the indoor environment, contributing 29% of the indoor submicron aerosol mass. We identify this factor as THS compounds partitioning from interior surfaces to gas phase and then aerosol phase. Partitioning of THS vapors to aerosols requires an aqueous phase for reactive uptake of the reduced nitrogen species (RdNS), leading to seasonal differences in THS concentration indoors. RdNS protonate under the acidic conditions expected for indoor aerosols of outdoor origin. Controlled laboratory measurements performed using cigarette smoke deposited into a Pyrex vessel showed a similar partitioning behavior to aerosol of outdoor origin and mass spectral features comparable to the measured indoor THS factor after 1 week of residence time in the closed vessel. This study reports a new, potentially large THS exposure route from partitioning of surface volatile organic compounds into the aerosol phase and subsequent dispersion in a mechanically ventilated building.

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