Sensory Reactions to and Irritation Effects of Environmental Tobacco Smoke

In this chapter, the acute sensory reactions from exposure to ETS are discussed. These reactions include perception of odor and irritation of eyes and upper airways. Methods for evaluating these psychosensory phenomena include controlled chamber studies, where ventilation and smoking rates are manipulated and evaluated in terms of reported perception by a small number of subjects.


The perception of odor is often the earliest indicator of exposure to many airborne contaminants, but not for all. For some individuals, odor may merely be a nuisance. For others, odor is an early indicator of a complex reaction to exposure to ETS involving allergic and other physiologic responses.

Considerations of sensory reactions have a central role in the development of guidelines for ventilation requirements for occupied spaces. The amount of ventilation, or number of air exchanges, needed to eliminate unacceptable odors and irritation commonly exceeds that required to meet any other needs, such as control of carbon dioxide. For a number of years, quite apart from concerns about possible adverse health from exposure to ETS, ventilation engineers have viewed ETS as the most problematic common indoor contaminant (Leonardos and Kendall, 1971).

Efforts to derive functional relationships between the amount of a contaminant generated in a space and the amount of outdoor air, i.e., ventilation, necessary to control its odor began in the

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