Cigarette Smoke Testing


Cigarette Smoke testing for a mixture of Mainstream and sidestream Smoke

Most of us prefer to live without cigarette smoke coming from the next unit, floating in through an open window, or otherwise invading our personal space. But in multi unit buildings, it’s almost impossible. You may want to consider an air purifier that contains charcoal or carbon, usually this is a prefilter. Charcoal or carbon will remove odors if enough of the air is pushed through a thick carbon filter. During the research phase of writing this post, Consumer Reports was examined. Oh, dear. The first rated portable air purifier was a brand that we have tested before and after and it didn’t do well. We tested this machine for multiple clients. Sad to say that $800 can’t buy an effective air purifier. 

In my office I have a WINIX Plasmawave from Costco – cost: $100. It has a paper HEPA and Charcoal filters. Yes, I would have made the charcoal filter contain more “charcoal”, but in air testing before and after, this machine works well. My office is in a non-smoking building.

Successful (accurate) cigarette smoke testing is dependent upon multiple factors such as the ventilation system,  types of building materials used, temperature, humidity, how long the tobacco smoking has been going on, how porous are the surrounding building materials (carpet, upholstery, drapes, etc.), and the brand of cigarettes or pipe tobacco used.

We test for environmental smoke from tobacco. Environmental smoke is the smoke exhaled from the smoker, stale, second hand, and third hand tobacco smoke. However, every cigarette manufacturer adds different chemicals. Often the chemicals added create additional chemicals as the cigarette burns. There are “marker chemical compounds” that often have little or no smell.

Cigarette Smoke Testing and Ventilation

Ventilation or air exchanges is your best friend in fighting second hand cigarette smoke. If you have central HVAC systems in your building, then run the fan if you don’t need heat or cooling. 

Always change the filter regularly. Purchase or specify HEPA paper filters only. 

Air exchanges and portable air purifiers will show a marked improvement in your indoor air quality.

Please don’t rely on inexpensive air sensors. Sometimes they work; sometimes they don’t.  Without some way to independently test your air before air purification and ventilation and then test again after, there is no way to know if your sensors are accurate or not. 

We want you to be realistic about what this test can and can't find in the air

There are limits to this type of testing because of the wide variety of real world locations and situations.

However, we have had a lot of successes with this testing. In the case of your neighbor smoking, we would, if possible, test in a common hall as close to the entry of the smoker’s unit as possible. Sometimes it is better to test inside the unit were the offensive smoke in entering. This is a judgement call that we make after investigation your location and hearing the history of the problem.

As there is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke, testing may be the only way to stop the smoking or prevent future smoking. 

This test doesn't detect marijuana, Vape, or Hash Smoke

This test uses traditional sorbent glass tubes for testing. Because of the wide variety of chemicals in marijuana, vape, or hash smoke, it is difficult, if not impossible, to confirm the cause is marijuana, vape, or hash smoke.

There are several environmental labs working on a sensor for active tobacco and marijuana smoke. This is very innovative technology and needs to be proven. 

Check back here for additional results.

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