Methyl isocyanate in cigarette smoke

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This article is part of the Tobacco portal on Sourcewatch funded from 2006 - 2009 by the American Legacy Foundation.

Methyl isocyantate has been identified in cigarette smoke.

A 1-page document produced by the Liggett & Myers Tobacco Company's Research Department identifies methyl isocyanate as a component in the smoke of commercial cigarettes. The Liggett document reports that,

"Methyl isocyanate was identified and quantitatively determined in the smoke gases of 85 mm long commercial cigarettes..."

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Air Toxics web page describes methyl isocyanate as used to produce carbamate pesticides. It is the chemical responsible for killing over 2,000 people and injuring 170,000 more in the Union Carbide gas disaster Bhopal, India in 1984. EPA's description of the chemical states:

"Methyl isocyanate is used to produce carbamate pesticides. Methyl isocyanate is extremely toxic to humans from acute (short-term) exposure. In Bhopal, India, accidental acute inhalation exposure to methyl isocyanate resulted in the deaths of more than 2,000 people and adverse health effects in greater than 170,000 survivors. Pulmonary [lung] edema was the probable cause. of death in most cases, with many deaths resulting from secondary respiratory infections. Survivors continue to exhibit damage to the lungs and eyes." [1][2]

The report was produced by Liggett in 1964, the same year the U.S. Surgeon General came out with his landmark report linking cigarette smoke with disease.

Sourcewatch resources

External resources


  1. United States Environmental Protection Agency Technology Transfer Network Air Toxics Web SiteMethyl Isocyanate Hazard Summary. Accessed March 19, 2009
  2. R.J. Philippe, Liggett And Myers Tobacco Co; R.G. Honeycutt, Liggett And Myers Tobacco Company Methyl Isocyanate In Cigarette Smoke And Its Retention By An Adsorption-Type Filter Legal abstract. 1 page. 1964. Bates No. 950483001