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Particulate mass and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons exposure from secondhand smoke in the back seat of a vehicle Hint – applies to everywhere children are seated in cars

1. Amanda L Northcross1,

2. Michael Trinh1,

3. Jay Kim1,

4. Ian A Jones2,

5. Matthew J Meyers3,

6. Delia D Dempsey4,

7. Neal L Benowitz5,

8. S Katharine Hammond1

+ Author Affiliations

1. 1Department of Environmental Health Sciences, School of Public Health, University of California Berkeley, Berkeley, California, USA

2. 2University of California at Los Angles, Los Angeles, California, USA

3. 3The Commonwealth Medical College, Scranton, Pennsylvania, USA

4. 4Department of Clinical Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, University of California at San Francisco, San Francisco, California, USA

5. 5Departments of Medicine and Bioengineering & Therapeutic Sciences, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, California, USA

1.     Correspondence to Dr Amanda L Northcross, Department of Environmental Health Sciences, School of Public Health, University of California Berkeley, 50 University Hall #7360, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA;

Received 20 March 2012

Accepted 28 August 2012

Published Online First 21 November 2012


Context Exposure to secondhand smoke (SHS) has been reduced in the USA by banning smoking in public places. These restrictions have not had the same effect on children’s exposure to SHS as adults suggesting that children are exposed to SHS in locations not covered by bans, such as private homes and cars.

Objectives Assess exposure to SHS in the backseat of a stationary vehicle where a child would sit, quantify exposures to fine particulates (PM2.5), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), carbon monoxide (CO) and nicotine. Estimate the impact on a child’s mean daily exposure to PM2.5.

Methods SHS exposures in stationary vehicles with two different window configurations were monitored. A volunteer smoked three cigarettes in a one-hour period for twenty-two experiments. PM2.5, CO, nicotine and PAH where measured in the backseat of the vehicle. 16 PAH compounds were measured for in gas and particle phases as well as real-time particle phase concentrations.

Results The mean PAH concentration, 1325.1 ng/m3, was larger than concentrations measured in bars and restaurants were smoking is banned in many countries. We estimate that a child spending only ten minutes in the car with a smoker at the mean PM2.5 concentration measured in the first window configuration −1697 mg/m3 – will cause a 30% increase to the daily mean PM2.5 personal average of a child.

Conclusions Estimates made using the measured data and previously reported PM2.5 daily mean concentrations for children in California showing that even short exposure periods are capable of creating large exposure to smoke.

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