Archives of Toxicology

, Volume 86, Issue 8, pp 1309–1316 | Cite as

Waterpipe smoking: the role of humectants in the release of toxic carbonyls

  • Jens SchubertEmail author
  • Volkmar Heinke
  • Jana Bewersdorff
  • Andreas Luch
  • Thomas G. Schulz
Genotoxicity and Carcinogenicity


In recent years, the number of waterpipe smokers has increased substantially worldwide. Here, we present a study on the identification and quantification of seven carbonylic compounds including formaldehyde, acetaldehyde and acrolein in the mainstream smoke of the waterpipe. Smoking was conducted with a smoking machine, and carbonyls were scavenged from the smoke with two impingers containing an acidic solution of 2,4-dinitrophenylhydrazine. The derivatives were then analyzed by high-performance liquid chromatography–tandem mass spectrometry (LC–MS/MS). For instance, during one waterpipe smoking session, up to 111 ± 12 μg formaldehyde could be detected. This value is about 5 times higher when compared to one 2R4F reference cigarette. We also found a distinct filter effect of the bowl water for all carbonyls investigated. Our data further demonstrate that increasing amounts of humectants in the unburned tobacco lowers the temperature in the waterpipe head during smoking, thereby resulting in decreasing levels of carbonyls in the smoke produced. Altogether, considerable amounts of toxic carbonyls are present in the waterpipe smoke, thus conferring a health risk to waterpipe smokers.


Waterpipe Carbonyls Formaldehyde Humectants LC–MS/MS 



This work was supported by an internal grant of the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR).

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

204_2012_884_MOESM1_ESM.doc (806 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 805 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jens Schubert
    • 1
    Email author
  • Volkmar Heinke
    • 1
  • Jana Bewersdorff
    • 1
  • Andreas Luch
    • 1
  • Thomas G. Schulz
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Product SafetyGerman Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR)BerlinGermany
  2. 2.Department of Chemicals SafetyGerman Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR)BerlinGermany

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