Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Thirdhand Smoke - Bigger Health Hazard Than Previously Believed

Smokers, primarily, put their own health at risk with their habit, but their second-hand smoke puts others at risk too.

If you can smell tobacco smoke — even if you can't see it — you're breathing in toxins, including more than 60 known carcinogens.

Scientists are reporting that so-called "thirdhand smoke" -- the invisible remains of cigarette smoke that clings to smokers' hair and clothing as well as to household fabrics, carpets and surfaces even after secondhand smoke has cleared -- may be even more of a health hazard than previously believed.

In an effort to learn more about thirdhand smoke, Yael Dubowski and colleagues studied interactions between nicotine and indoor air on a variety of different materials, including cellulose (a component of wood furniture), cotton, and paper to simulate typical indoor surfaces. They found that nicotine interacts with ozone, in indoor air, to form potentially toxic pollutants on these surfaces. Exposure to them can occur to babies crawling on the carpet, people napping on the sofa, or people eating food tainted by thirdhand smoke.

Given the toxicity of some of the identified products and that small particles may contribute to adverse health effects, the present study indicates that exposure to thirdhand smoke ozonation products may pose additional health risks

Thirdhand smoke can persist on those materials for days, weeks and even months. You can't eliminate thirdhand smoke exposure in your home by opening a window, using air conditioning or a fan, or allowing smoking in some rooms but not others. The only way to fully protect your children — and nonsmoking adults in your family — is to make your home and car smoke-free. Consider this added bonus: Enforcing these smoke-free zones may help smokers quit and reduce the risk of teens becoming smokers.

Journal Reference:

Lauren M. Petrick, Alona Svidovsky, Yael Dubowski. Thirdhand Smoke: Heterogeneous Oxidation of Nicotine and Secondary Aerosol Formation in the Indoor Environment. Environmental Science & Technology, 2011; 45 (1): 328 DOI: 10.1021/es102060v

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