• Indoor air pollution;
  • Second-hand smoke;
  • Particulate matter;
  • Airborne nicotine;
  • Seasonal patterns;
  • Multiunit housing


The risk of tobacco smoking and second-hand smoke (SHS) exposure combined are the leading contributors to disease burden in high-income countries. Recent studies and policies are focusing on reducing exposure to SHS in multiunit housing (MUH), especially public housing. We examined seasonal patterns of SHS levels within indoor common areas located on Boston Housing Authority (BHA) properties. We measured weekly integrated and continuous fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and passive airborne nicotine in six buildings of varying building and occupant characteristics in summer 2012 and winter 2013. The average weekly indoor PM2.5 concentration across all six developments was 9.2 μg/m3, higher during winter monitoring period (10.3 μg/m3) compared with summer (8.0 μg/m3). Airborne nicotine concentrations ranged from no detection to about 5000 ng/m3 (mean 311 ng/m3). Nicotine levels were significantly higher in the winter compared with summer (620 vs. 85 ng/m3; 95% CI: 72–998). Smoking-related exposures within Boston public housing vary by season, building types, and resident smoking policy. Our results represent exposure disparities that may contribute to health disparities in low-income communities and highlight the potential importance of efforts to mitigate SHS exposures during winter when outdoor–indoor exchange rates are low and smokers may tend to stay indoors. Our findings support the use of smoke-free policy as an effective tool to eliminate SHS exposure and protect non-smokers, especially residents of MUH.