Background: Tobacco smoke is a major risk factor in the development of COPD. Secondhand smoke (SHS) exposure is a known risk factor in asthma, bronchitis, and coronary artery disease. Elastin is a recognized target for injury in COPD, and the amino acids desmosine and isodesmosine (D/I), which are specific for elastin degradation, are elevated in COPD. This study determined whether exposure to SHS affects elastin degradation in asymptomatic individuals. Methods: Two cohorts of asymptomatic individuals without evidence of respiratory or circulatory disease, exposed to SHS, were studied. Both cohorts comprised normal nonsmokers, active smokers, and those exposed to SHS. D/I were measured in plasma and quantified by high-performance liquid chromatography and tandem mass spectrometry by published methods. Plasma cotinine, a metabolite of nicotine, was also measured. Results: In each cohort, the levels of D/I in plasma were statistically significantly higher in secondhand-smoke-exposed subjects than in the normal nonexposed subjects. Smokers had the highest levels of D/I but their levels were not statistically significantly higher than those of the secondhand-smoke-exposed. Cotinine levels were elevated in secondhand-smoke-exposed subjects and active smokers but not in most nonsmoking control subjects. Conclusions: Results indicate a tissue matrix effect of degradation of body elastin from SHS exposure and possible lung structure injury, which may result in COPD. Long-term studies of individuals exposed to SHS for the development of COPD are warranted.