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Cotton pillows: A novel field method for assessment of thirdhand smoke pollution.

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Thirdhand smoke (THS) is the residue left behind by secondhand smoke (SHS) that accumulates in indoor environments. THS chemicals can persist long after smoking has ceased and can re-emit semivolatile compounds back into the air. Measuring tobacco smoke pollution in real-world field setting can be technically complex, expensive, and intrusive. This study placed pillows in homes of former smokers and examined how much nicotine adsorbed to them over a three-week period. Organic cotton pillows were placed in the homes of 8 former smokers following the first week after verified smoking cessation until the fourth week. For comparison, pillows were also placed in 4 homes of nonsmokers. Nicotine concentrations were determined in the pillow case, fabric, and cotton filling, using isotope-dilution liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry. Cotton pillows placed in homes of former smokers absorbed on average 21.5 μg of nicotine. Nicotine concentration per gram of material significantly differed between pillow components (p < 0.001) and was highest for the pillow case (257 ng/g), followed by the pillow fabric (97 ng/g), and the pillow filling (17 ng/g). Nicotine levels in pillows placed in nonsmokers' homes did not differ from laboratory blanks (p > 0.40), or between pillow components (p > 0.40). In the absence of any smoking activity, cotton pillows absorbed significant amounts of nicotine emitted from THS reservoirs in the homes of former smokers. Given the much higher concentrations of SHS in the homes of active smokers, fabrics found throughout the home of a smoker are likely to store a substantial mass of tobacco smoke toxicants. Cotton pillows present a novel method that could be of interest to researchers requiring robust and unobtrusive methods to examine tobacco smoke pollution in real-world field settings.

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