Estimated Exposure Risks from Carcinogenic Nitrosamines in Urban Airborne Particulate Matter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Organic nitrogen (ON) compounds are present in atmospheric particulate matter (PM), but compared to their inorganic, hydrocarbon and oxygenated counterparts, they are difficult to characterize due to their complex chemical composition. Nitrosamines are a class of ON compounds known to be highly carcinogenic, and include species formed from nicotine degradation, but there are no detailed estimates of their abundance in ambient air. We use a highly sensitive analytical method, which is capable of separating over 700 ON compounds, to determine daily variability in nicotine, and 8 non specific and 4 tobacco specific nitrosamines in ambient PM from central London over two periods in winter and summer. The average total nitrosamine concentration was 5.2 ng m-3, substantially exceeding a current public recommendation of 0.3 ng m-3 on a daily basis. The lifetime cancer risk from nitrosamines in urban PM exceeded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency guideline of 1 excess cancer cases per 1 million population exposed after 1 hour of exposure to observed concentrations per day over the duration of an adult lifetime. A clear relationship between ambient nitrosamines and total PM2.5 was observed with 1.2 ng m-3 ± 2.6 ng m-3 (total nitrosamine) per 10 µg m-3 PM2.5.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9648-9656
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number16
Early online date24 Jul 2015
Publication statusPublished - 24 Jul 2015

Bibliographical note

This is an open access article published under a Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the author and source are cited.

Cite this