Fine particulate matter concentrations in smoking households: just how much secondhand smoke do you breathe in if you live with a smoker who smokes indoors?

Sean Semple, Andrew Apsley, Tengku Azmina Ibrahim, Stephen W Turner, John W Cherrie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

25 Citations (Scopus)


OBJECTIVE: Using data on fine particulate matter less than 2.5 μm (PM2.5) concentrations in smoking and non-smoking homes in Scotland to estimate the mass of PM2.5 inhaled by different age groups.

METHODS: Data from four linked studies, with real-time measurements of PM2.5 in homes, were combined with data on typical breathing rates and time-activity patterns. Monte Carlo modelling was used to estimate daily PM2.5 intake, the percentage of total PM2.5 inhaled within the home environment and the percentage reduction in daily intake that could be achieved by switching to a smoke-free home.

RESULTS: Median (IQR) PM2.5 concentrations from 93 smoking homes were 31 (10-111) μg/m(3) and 3 (2-6.5) μg/m(3) for the 17 non-smoking homes. Non-smokers living with smokers typically have average PM2.5 exposure levels more than three times higher than the WHO guidance for annual exposure to PM2.5 (10 μg/m(3)).

CONCLUSIONS: Fine particulate pollution in Scottish homes where smoking is permitted is approximately 10 times higher than in non-smoking homes. Taken over a lifetime many non-smokers living with a smoker inhale a similar mass of PM2.5 as a non-smoker living in a heavily polluted city such as Beijing. Most non-smokers living in smoking households would experience reductions of over 70% in their daily inhaled PM2.5 intake if their home became smoke-free. The reduction is likely to be greatest for the very young and for older members of the population because they typically spend more time at home.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e205-e211
Number of pages7
JournalTobacco Control
Issue numbere3
Early online date20 Oct 2014
Publication statusPublished - 2015



  • Smoking households
  • Fine particulate matter
  • Secondhand smoke

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