The assessment of environmental tobacco smoke exposure is complicated by the presence of significant amounts of organic material in both the gas and the particulate phase and by changes in the relative composition of the two phases with time. An understanding of both the chemical nature of fresh environmental tobacco smoke and the changes in its composition over time are needed in order to properly assess the impact of smoking on the nonsmoker in indoor environments. The dynamics of these changes in environmental tobacco smoke affect: (1) the chemical compounds to which the nonsmoker is exposed, (2) the chemical compounds that may be used to estimate the exposure of the nonsmoker to environmental tobacco smoke in the indoor environment, and (3) risk assessment of disease and irritant exacerbations associated with exposure of the nonsmoker to environmental tobacco smoke.
The chemical characteristics of environmental tobacco smoke that affect the assessment of exposure to environmental tobacco smoke are reviewed. The various components of environmental tobacco smoke that have been used to assess exposure are evaluated with respect to the following three criteria: (1) uniqueness to environmental tobacco smoke, (2) ease of determination at concentrations present in indoor air, and (3) relationship to other components of environmental tobacco smoke.
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