A diffusion denuder apparatus has been used to investigate the gas-particle partitioning of formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, acrolein and crotonaldehyde in cigarette mainstream smoke (MS), compounds that are of interest owing to their toxicity and near quantitative retention in the body during cigarette smoking. Formaldehyde showed the best performance in denuder experiments with simple aldehyde-air mixtures owing to the relatively fast rate of the heterogeneous reaction formaldehyde(g) + dinitrophenylhydrazine(s) 6 hydrazone(s). Analysis with the GORMLEY-KENNEDY equation revealed that formaldehyde denuder removal approached, but did not attain, complete efficiency even under optimized operational conditions. Acetaldehyde, acrolein and crotonaldehyde were trapped with considerably lower efficiency than formaldehyde under the denuder conditions used, and more effective denuder wall coatings would be required to examine gas-particle partitioning of these other carbonyls. The proportion of form-aldehyde in the smoke particulate phase initially entering the denuder was > 99%, but loss of formaldehyde from the smoke particles was relatively rapid leading to 35%–61% deposition over the denuder length. The temperature dependence of formaldehyde deposition in the denuder was well predicted using Henry’s law constant for aqueous formaldehyde solutions. These observed properties of form-aldehyde are primarily due to reversible reactions of formaldehyde with water in cigarette smoke leading to the much less volatile species methanediol, its oligomers and hydrate. These data suggest that cigarette smoke inhalation is likely to expose the deeper-lung generations of smokers to greater relative formaldehyde exposure, and greater genotoxic risk at those generations than might occur through inhalation of formaldehyde vapour alone.
Risk assessments of formaldehyde in cigarette smoke should be updated to recognise this modified risk profile. [Beitr. Tabakforsch. Int. 29 (2020) 2–20]