LBNL Report Number
Nicotine is a major constituent of environmental tobacco smoke. Sorptive interactions of nicotine with indoor surfaces can substantially alter indoor concentrations. The phenomenon is poorly understood, including whether sorption is fully reversible or partially irreversible. We hypothesize that acid-base chemistry on indoor surfaces might contribute to the apparent irreversibility of nicotine sorption under some circumstances. Specifically, we suggest that nicotine may become protonated on surfaces, markedly reducing its vapor pressure. If so, subsequent exposure of the surface to gaseous ammonia, a common base, could raise the surface pH, causing deprotonation and desorption of nicotine from surfaces. A series of experiments was conducted to explore the effect of ammonia on nicotine sorption to and reemission from surfaces. Our results indicate that, under some conditions, exposure to gaseous ammonia can substantially increase the rate of desorption of previously sorbed nicotine from common indoor surface materials.