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Estimation of the dose of electronic cigarette chemicals deposited in human airways through passive vaping



Existing studies on the health effects of e-cigarettes focused on e-cigarette users themselves. To study the corresponding effects on passive vapers, it is crucial to quantify e-cigarette chemicals deposited in their airways.


This study proposed an innovative approach to estimate the deposited dose of e-cigarette chemicals in the passive vapers’ airways. The effect of the distance between active and passive vapers on the deposited dose was also examined.


The chemical constituent analysis was conducted to detect Nicotine and flavoring agents in e-cigarette aerosol. The Mobile Aerosol Lung Deposition Apparatus (MALDA) was employed to conduct aerosol respiratory deposition experiments in real-life settings to generate real-time data.


For e-cigarette aerosol in the ultrafine particle regime, the deposited doses in the alveolar region were on average 3.2 times higher than those in the head-to-TB airways, and the deposited dose in the passive vaper’s airways increased when being closer to the active vaper.


With prolonged exposure and close proximity to active vapers, passive vapers may be at risk for potential health effects of harmful e-cigarette chemicals. The methodology developed in this study has laid the groundwork for future research on exposure assessment and health risk analysis for passive vaping.

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Fig. 1: The schematic diagram of the Mobile Aerosol Lung Deposition Apparatus (MALDA).
Fig. 2: The experimental set-up of e-cigarette aerosol sample collection in the laboratory.
Fig. 3: The experimental results acquired from the real-life setting.
Fig. 4: The estimated deposited dose in different airway regions by measurement distances.
Fig. 5: The cumulative deposited doses of selected e-cigarette chemicals in human airways.


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This study was supported by R21ES031795 from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) to W-CS; R01DA049154 from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) to AB; and 5T42OH008421 from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to the Southwest Center for Occupational and Environmental Health (SWCOEH).

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Correspondence to Wei-Chung Su.

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Su, WC., Lin, YH., Wong, SW. et al. Estimation of the dose of electronic cigarette chemicals deposited in human airways through passive vaping. J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol 31, 1008–1016 (2021).

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  • E-cigarette, Aerosol, Human airways, Respiratory deposition, Deposited dose

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