Reduction of Environmental Tobacco Smoke Transfer in Minnesota Multifamily Buildings Using Air Sealing and Ventilation Treatments

This study was completed as part of a research project focused on environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) in apartment buildings. Minnesota renters, who comprise 25.4% of Minnesota households and who disproportionately include minorities, low income households, and young adults, have no guarantee of a smoke-free place to live. As a result, they are sometimes exposed to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) entering their apartments from other apartments, from hallways or other common areas of their building, or from balconies, patios or grounds outside the building -- a phenomenon that we refer to here as “ETS transfer” or “secondhand smoke transfer.” The two goals of this project are to build a sound base of knowledge that will facilitate the designation of smoke-free apartment buildings and the treatment of smoking permitted buildings to minimize ETS transfer.

This report summarizes the results from field studies to evaluate the effectiveness of air sealing and ventilation treatments to reduce ETS transfer. The primary questions addressed in this project are:

  • What are typical contaminant dispersion and air flow rates between apartment units in multifamily buildings in Minnesota? How does the transfer of nicotine and fine particulates compare to the transfer of tracer gases?
  • How does air flow and contaminant transfer between units differ by building type or by differences in construction details between buildings? How does this differ by presence and type of mechanical ventilation system?
  • How much can air flow and contaminant transfer between units be reduced by air sealing, and at what cost?
  • How much can air flow and contaminant transfer between units be reduced by better design, balance or operation of mechanical ventilation systems, and at what cost?
  • Since testing and treatment of multifamily buildings is costly, this project does not provide complete answers to these questions. However, the results substantially improve our practical ability to reduce inter-unit air flows and hence the transfer of ETS in multifamily buildings in Minnesota. 
Full report (PDF)
Reduction of Environmental Tobacco Smoke Transfer in Minnesota Multifamily Buildings Using Air Sealing and Ventilation Treatments

Appendices A - G​