Air PollutionAir QualityHEPA Filters

Commercial Air Filters Are Needed to Trap Cigarette Toxins

By August 21, 2018 No Comments
14–16 minutes to read

Learn How Cigarettes Harm the Environment and Create A Greater Need for Commercial Air Filters and Industrial Air Filtration Units

Many people know that smoking cigarettes can be harmful to their lungs. Some people also know that secondhand smoke can be harmful to people standing nearby the person smoking. Yet not that many people are aware of just how damaging to the environment as a whole cigarettes can be, or the overall amount of toxic air pollutants that cigarettes can release into the air. As it turns out, cigarettes can release a shocking amount of air pollutants, contributing to atmospheric levels of air pollution and harming the health of all of society. These air pollutants make the use of high efficiency air filters much more necessary.

Just how much air pollution is released by a cigarette? How do these pollutants harm people’s health, and what can people do to protect themselves from the toxic byproducts of cigarettes?

High Efficiency Air Filtration Units Can Filter Out The Dangerous Compounds in Cigarettes

When cigarette smoke is expelled into the air, it is made out of various concentrations of toxic air pollutants. The pollutants contained in cigarette smoke include nicotine, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, heavy metals, and various volatile organic compounds. These volatile organic compounds include sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, carbon dioxide, and particulate matter.

Nicotine is the primary ingredient in cigarettes, and it is what gives them their addictive quality. Most cigarettes get their nicotine from refined tobacco leaves, combined together with a variety of other compounds to create three different forms of nicotine in cigarettes. These three different forms of nicotine can be released into the air depending on how acidic or basic the formula used was.

“Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are organic compounds made out of only carbon and hydrogen,” said Kevin Wood, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Camfil USA commercial air filters. “They can be quite dangerous to human health and are often released by the combustion of biofuels like wood or coal.  In the 1980s, smoking accounted for roughly 90% of indoor air pollution. With our efforts towards non-smoking facilities and smoking prohibitions, a significant difference has been made limiting cigarette exposure, but it still can be identified when doing air quality testing in some buildings. It may be introduced through outside air intakes or an avenue of transfer between adjacent buildings.”¹

Heavy metals like lead and cadmium can be introduced into the air through cigarette smoke, originally having found their way into the tobacco used for the cigarettes through tainted soils where the plant was grown or by contamination in the facility where the cigarette was produced.

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are a number of different compounds that can interact with sunlight and heat to create smog and ground-level ozone. Ozone is harmful at ground level, unlike in the upper atmosphere where it protects the planet from ultraviolet radiation. Volatile organic compounds can include things like sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide. Cars and industrial processes are another main source of these pollutants, as they primarily come from the combustion of fossil fuels, but the combustion of tobacco can release them as well.

Particulate matter (PM) is a catch-all term for any small particles of air pollution, liquid or solid, capable of entering the human lungs and bloodstream, doing significant damage to the cells of the body. PM pollution is split into three classes: PM1, PM2.5 and PM10. These particles are smaller than 1-micron in size, smaller than 2.5-microns in size, and smaller than 10-microns in size respectively.  The smaller the particles are, the more damage they can do to the human body.  The composition of particulate matter can vary, but PM pollution is always dangerous.

High Efficiency Air Filtration and Ventilation Protects People’s Health from Cigarette Toxins

Industrial air filtration and ventilation is an effective way of protecting people’s health from exposure to the air pollutants released by cigarettes. The pollutants can easily build up indoors, increasing the risk that occupants of the building will develop several different cardiovascular and respiratory ailments.

“The health effects of exposure to PAHs depend on how long a person is exposed to them and the concentrations of the PAHs,” Wood added. “The health effects of exposure to PAHs can include damage to the liver and kidneys, as well as the development of cataracts. Some PAHs are known to cause cancer in animals and have been associated with the increased risk of bladder, lung, or skin cancer in humans.”²

Exposure to heavy metals like lead and cadmium can easily damage the whole body. There is no known safe level of lead exposure, and lead can negatively impact the entire nervous system, as well as damage the liver and kidneys. Exposure to particles of cadmium can cause symptoms similar to the flu, including muscle pain and chills, and can damage the lining of the lungs.

Exposure to sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide can also damage the lining of the lungs, leaving them more vulnerable to infection. Nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide exposure have also been correlated with the development of ailments like asthma and emphysema. Exposure to ozone is known to degrade lung function after repeated exposure and lead to dizziness and wheezing in the short term.

Particulate matter is known to be extremely dangerous to human health, capable of causing a wide variety of different health problems. The tiny pollution particles are capable of damaging many different organs, although the lungs and cardiovascular system are the primary areas of damage. Particulate matter exposure is correlated with the development of asthma, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, ischemic heart disease, and lung cancer.

Commercial Air Purifiers Become More Necessary As More Cigarettes Are Smoked

While the air pollutants released by cigarettes can lead to health damage and increase the need for commercial air purifiers, how much pollution exactly is released by cigarettes? Estimates about the concentration of pollutants included in secondhand smoke vary, but the pollution released by cigarettes can end up being substantial.

“At least one study estimates that the air pollution released by cigarettes was ten times greater than the pollution released by diesel exhaust engines,” stated Wood at Camfil USA commercial air filters. “This was done by comparing the number of pollutants generated by idling a diesel vehicle for 30 minutes in a garage using low sulfur fuel to the cigarettes left smoldering in the same garage for 30 minutes.”³

As for the amount of pollution released by a single cigarette, though the amount may vary from brand to brand, the average amount of PM2.5 pollution released is approximately 14 milligrams of pollution. When it is considered that the weight of the average cigarette is only about 0.9 grams total, this is a substantial amount of pollution released by only one cigarette.

“Cigarettes can also harm the environment and people’s health in more indirect ways. The farming of tobacco requires massive amounts of water and land,” said Wood. “To get the land needed to grow tobacco, regions of forest are often deforested. These deforested regions lose a substantial percentage of their ability to absorb air pollutants like carbon dioxide, which contributes to global warming.” 

Industrial HEPA Air Filters Can Absorb Harmful Particulate Matter

Due to the fact that cigarettes release a large number of toxic chemicals and particulate matter into the air, if one must live in a place where cigarettes are frequently smoked, they may want to use industrial HEPA air filters to reduce their amount of exposure to particulate matter.

HEPA filters (high-efficiency particulate air) filters are filters that are capable of absorbing up to 99.97% of all particulate matter down to 0.3-micron in size almost all of the time. HEPA filters can be invaluable tools for those who cannot reduce their risk of being exposed to cigarette smoke in other fashions and should be employed by those who have special sensitivities to particulate matter, such as those with pre-existing health conditions like asthma.

High Efficiency HVAC Air Filters Should Be Combined with Efforts to Reduce Smoking

Commercial HVAC air filters filter toxic air pollutants, like those released by cigarette smoke, but they can’t address the larger problem of smoking in general. Combating the air pollution created by smoking may only be done by curbing the number of people who smoke. Strategies to encourage smokers to quit smoking or to prevent people from becoming smokers include education, no-smoking zones, and taxes on cigarettes.

Educating people about the damage cigarettes do to their health can be effective at reducing incidences of smoking when done correctly. Studies suggest that education campaigns should emphasize the benefits of not smoking over the risks of not smoking, creating incentives to stop smoking.

No smoking zones and smoking taxes are also ways to deter smoking. These systems make smoking more of an inconvenience and thus deters people from continuing to smoke or starting smoking in the first place.

Camfil USA HEPA air filters can provide you with the filters you need to protect your lungs from particulate matter and cigarette smoke. Contact Camfil USA commercial air filters today to order high quality filters and receive support from trained professionals.

Lynne Laake

Camfil USA Air Filters

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