Laboratory of Industrial Toxicology, Department of Clinical Medicine, Nephrology and Health Sciences, University of Parma, Parma, Italy.
Exhaled breath condensate (EBC) consists mainly of water, but also contains semivolatile and nonvolatile compounds. The aim of this study was to develop a system in which two condensers are simultaneously used in series to clarify the mechanisms of EBC condensation. Two aliquots of EBC (EBC1 and EBC2) were collected from 20 asymptomatic smokers and 20 healthy young nonsmokers using a specifically designed device having two condensers in series in which total volume, hydrogen peroxide (H(2)O(2)), ammonium (NH(4)(+)), and conductivity before and after lyophilization were measured. Water, NH(4)(+) levels and conductivity before lyophilization were significantly lower in the EBC2 than in the EBC1 of smokers and nonsmokers; the contrary was true for H(2)O(2) levels. Almost all nonvolatile salts were collected in the first condenser, because more than 50% of postlyophilization conductivity was below the detection limit in EBC2. The recovery of volatile molecules and their derivatives (water and NH(4)(+)) was partial in the first condenser, but appreciable amounts of both were measured in the second; however, the condenser immediately in contact with exhaled air was more efficient in terms of water, NH(4)(+) and conductivity before lyophilization. On the contrary, nonvolatile ions (conductivity after lyophilization) were mainly collected in the first condenser. Finally, the behavior of H(2)O(2) cannot be explained on the basis of its chemical and physical properties, and the most probable explanation is that some was byproduced by a radical reaction in the gas phase or during the condensation process in water.