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UV-254 degradation of nicotine in natural waters and leachates produced from cigarette butts and heat-not-burn tobacco products

Alberti Stefano, Sotiropoulou Maria, Fernández Elena, Solomou Nikolitsa, Ferretti Maurizio, Psyllaki Eleftheria

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Year 2021
Type of Item Peer-Reviewed Journal Publication
Bibliographic Citation S. Alberti, M. Sotiropoulou, E. Fernández, N. Solomou, M. Ferretti and E. Psillakis, “UV-254 degradation of nicotine in natural waters and leachates produced from cigarette butts and heat-not-burn tobacco products,” Environ. Res., vol. 194, Mar. 2021, doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2020.110695.
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Nicotine is an important emerging contaminant widely detected in water resources. The main nicotine sources are human excretions from users and leaching from discarded tobacco product waste, which represents the most commonly littered item in urban areas and coasts. In this study, the UV254 photolytical fate of nicotine in natural water and leachates produced from conventional cigarettes (CCs) and the new generation heat-not-burn (HnBs) tobacco products is examined for the first time. The effect of UV254 irradiation on nicotine depletion in ultrapure water was initially studied. The reaction was pseudo first-order with respect to nicotine concentration at low concentrations and shifted to lower order at higher concentrations, an effect associated to absorption saturation. Although nicotine removal was fast, only 9.5% of the total organic carbon was removed after irradiation due to the formation of by-products. The chemical structures of six photo-products were derived by means of liquid and gas chromatography coupled to mass spectrometry. The photodegradation kinetics was found to depend on pH and faster kinetics were recorded when the monoprotonated form of nicotine was dominant (pH = 5–8). The presence of humic acids was found to slightly delay kinetics as they competed with nicotine for lamp irradiance, whereas the presence of salt had no effect on the direct photolysis of nicotine. Direct photolysis studies were also performed using natural waters. Compared to ultra-pure water, photodegradation was found to proceed slightly slower in river water, in similar kinetics in seawater, and relatively faster in rain water. The later was assumed to be due to the lower pH compared to the rest of the natural water tested. Leachates from used HnBs and smoked CCs were also submitted to UV254 irradiation and direct photolysis was found to proceed fast despite the high complexity of these matrices. Nonetheless, the total organic carbon in the system remained the same after irradiation due to the abundance of organics and photo-products formed. We take advantage of the present investigations and report the leaching behavior of nicotine from HnBs and CCs. Among others, we found that in HnBs ~70% of the total and bioavailable nicotine content remains in the tobacco sticks after operation and this percentage drops to 15% in CCs due to the reduction in mass after smoking. This finding demonstrated the importance of properly disposing tobacco product waste to prevent nicotine leaching in water bodies.

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