Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS): measurement of acrylonitrile and nicotine in working areas

Project No. BGIA 2074


completed 09/2008


Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS) has been classified by the German Research Foundation (DFG) as a workplace agent of proven carcinogenicity in humans in accordance with K1. Employees in the hotel and restaurant sector who until now were not protected at the workplace are a group subject to particularly high exposure. For estimation of the health risk at the workplaces concerned, it was necessary to determine the quantities of ETS to which employees in the catering trades are exposed, and the proportion of these quantities which is absorbed by the body.


For this purpose, certain ETS marker components were measured in the breathing air of non-smoking employees. At the same time, the internal exposure of these persons was measured by the study of biological monitoring in blood, urine and saliva. This second part of the project was conducted by the BGFA Institute for Occupational Medicine of the German Social Accident Insurance in Bochum. The objective was to determine whether a correlation exists between the external and internal exposure.
In the first phase, methods were developed for measurement of the marker components acrylonitrile and nicotine in working areas. Owing to the anticipated very low concentrations of these substances at the workplaces concerned, it was necessary for limits of detection in the region of 0.1 µg/m³ to be attained. In conjunction with the BGFA, samples were then taken in catering businesses in comprehensive test series, and evaluated.


Within the project, analysis methods were developed and validated for the measurement of nicotine and acrylonitrile in indoor atmospheres.
Nicotine is sampled on XAD-4 tubes at a recommended sampling duration of four hours and a volumetric flow rate of one l/min. Following extraction of the tubes, analysis is performed by means of gas chromatography and a nitrogen phosphorous detector (GC/NPD). The method has a limit of detection of 0.1 µg/m³.
Acrylonitrile is sampled on Type B activated carbon tubes at a recommended sampling duration of five hours and a volumetric flow rate of 0.66 l/min. Analysis is performed by means of gas chromatography and a nitrogen phosphorous detector. The method has a limit of detection of 0.1 µg/m³.

The analysis methods were employed during measurements at several hospitality venues in Bochum and Cologne in the early summer of 2008 in order to determine the exposure to ETS of non-smoking employees. In total, 134 personal and stationary measurements were conducted. Stationary testing was conducted at locations exhibiting particularly high exposure (bar areas). At the same time, personal samplers were worn by the personnel of the establishments. In addition, human samples were taken from the test subjects by the BGFA and tested for nicotine and acrylonitrile metabolites.
Nicotine and acrylonitrile were found to be present at all test locations. The nicotine concentrations lay between 1.2 and 152 µg/m³, those of acrylonitrile between 0.1 and 8.2 µg/m³, with a high correlation (r = 0.83). The highest exposure levels were observed in a discoteque (nicotine: mean value 74.6 µg/m³, acrylonitrile: mean value 5.0 µg/m³; the lowest concentrations in cafés (nicotine: mean value 13.8 µg/m³, acrylonitrile: mean value 0.8 µg/m³). Different exposure levels were observed for the catering personnel as a function of their work profiles. Persons working in a limited area (at the bar) of the establishment were subjected in some cases to considerably higher exposure than the waiting personnel. The results also revealed a trend during the course of the day, the highest exposures being observed late in the evening.

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Financed by:
  • Deutsche Gesetzliche Unfallversicherung e. V. (DGUV)
Research institution(s):
  • BGIA - Institut für Arbeitsschutz der Deutschen Gesetzlichen Unfallversicherung
  • BGFA - Forschungsinstitut für Arbeitsmedizin der Deutschen Gesetzlichen Unfallversicherung

catering and hotel industy

Type of hazard:

Arbeitsbedingte Gesundheitsgefahren, Gefahrstoffe


Krebserregende Stoffe, Messverfahren, Exposition

Description, key words:

Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS), acrylonitrile, nicotine, development of methods, gas chromatography, nitrogen phosphorous detector (NPD), exposure measurement, hospitality venues