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Chemical emission rates from cigarette butts into air



Mengyan Gong, Nicholas Daniels, Dustin G. Poppendieck


Globally, over five trillion cigarette butts are generated every year, resulting in potential environmental and human risks. However, little attention has been paid to airborne emission from cigarette butts. This study measured airborne emissions from cigarette butts for styrene, 2-methyl-2-cyclopenten-1-one, naphthalene, triacetin and nicotine. Ten sets of experiments were conducted at 20 °C, 25 °C or 30 °C by placing cigarette butts in a stainless-steel 31 m3 chamber and measuring the air concentrations in the chamber for up to five days. Emission rates were then calculated based on the measured air concentrations. The air concentrations during 0 h to 2 h after placing butts in chamber ranged from 80 ng m-3 for naphthalene to 1500 ng m-3 for 2-methyl-2-cyclopenten-1-one. Concentrations of styrene, 2-methyl-2-cyclopenten-1-one, and naphthalene decayed to less than 10 % of initial concentrations within 24 h. In contrast, concentrations of triacetin and nicotine were still roughly 50 % of initial concentrations after over 100 h. The calculated initial emission rates per cigarette butt ranged from 200 ng h-1 for naphthalene to 3500 ng h-1 for triacetin. In addition, the emission rates of triacetin and nicotine at 25 °C were 1.6 to 2.2 times higher than their emission rates at 20 °C. For styrene, 2-methyl 2-cyclopenten-1-one, and naphthalene, the emission rates at 25 °C during the first sampling period were 1.1 to 1.3 times higher than the emission rates at 20 °C, but the emission rates tended to be lower at 25 °C than at 20 °C after the initial sampling period, which may result from the significant depletion of chemicals in the butts during the initial period. The chemical concentrations and emission rates at 30 °C were comparable or lower than the concentrations at 25 °C, which may be due to different batches of cigarettes used. The 24 h emitted mass of nicotine from a cigarette butt at 25 °C could be up to 14 % of the literature reported emitted nicotine mass from a
Indoor Air


Gong, M. , Daniels, N. and Poppendieck, D. (2020), Chemical emission rates from cigarette butts into air, Indoor Air, [online], (Accessed March 4, 2024)
Created January 18, 2020, Updated February 4, 2020