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Issue 8, 2019
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Sources of isocyanic acid (HNCO) indoors: a focus on cigarette smoke

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The sources and sinks of isocyanic acid (HNCO), a toxic gas, in indoor environments are largely uncharacterized. In particular, cigarette smoke has been identified as a significant source. In this study, controlled smoking of tobacco cigarettes was investigated in both an environmental chamber and a residence in Toronto, Canada using an acetate-CIMS. The HNCO emission ratio from side-stream cigarette smoke was determined to be 2.7 (±1.1) × 10−3 ppb HNCO/ppb CO. Side-stream smoke from a single cigarette introduced a large pulse of HNCO to the indoor environment, increasing the HNCO mixing ratio by up to a factor of ten from background conditions of 0.15 ppb. Although there was no evidence for photochemical production of HNCO from cigarette smoke in the residence, it was observed in the environmental chamber via oxidation by the hydroxyl radical (1.1 × 107 molecules per cm3), approximately doubling the HNCO mixing ratio after 30 minutes of oxidation. Oxidation of cigarette smoke by O3 (15 ppb = 4.0 × 1017 molecules per cm3) and photo-reaction with indoor fluorescent lights did not produce HNCO. By studying the temporal profiles of both HNCO and CO after smoking, it is inferred that gas-to-surface partitioning of HNCO acts as an indoor loss pathway. Even in the absence of smoking, the indoor HNCO mixing ratios in the Toronto residence were elevated compared to concurrent outdoor measurements by approximately a factor of two.

Graphical abstract: Sources of isocyanic acid (HNCO) indoors: a focus on cigarette smoke

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Article information

28 Feb 2019
04 Apr 2019
First published
05 Apr 2019

Environ. Sci.: Processes Impacts, 2019,21, 1334-1341
Article type

Sources of isocyanic acid (HNCO) indoors: a focus on cigarette smoke

R. F. Hems, C. Wang, D. B. Collins, S. Zhou, N. Borduas-Dedekind, J. A. Siegel and J. P. D. Abbatt, Environ. Sci.: Processes Impacts, 2019, 21, 1334
DOI: 10.1039/C9EM00107G

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