Researchers from San diegohave found that smoking hookah – a type of flavored tobacco – could lead to an increase in leukemia.
Hookah smoke doubles exposure to benzene, which the U.S. National Toxicology Program classifies as a Group 1 carcinogen, a substance that is proven to cause cancer in humans. The World Health Organization (WHO) says there is no safe level of exposure for the chemical.The new study, published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research, analyzed the levels of S phenylmercapturic acid (SPMA), a metabolite of benzene, from urine samples of 105 hookah smokers and 103 nonsmokers. The samples were taken before and after the participants attended an event at a hookah lounge or a private home. All study participants showed an increase in SPMA. Hookah smokers had a 4.2-fold increase in SPMA after smoking hookah tobacco at a lounge and 1.9-fold increase after smoking in a private home. Non-smoking participants showed a 2.6-fold increase in benzene intake.
Study author Dr. Nada Kassem, associate director of the Center for Behavioral Epidemiology and Community Health at San Diego State University, told Fox News she was not surprised to find the benzene increase in the non-smokers, explaining that non-smokers who socialize with hookah smokers inhale large quantities of “charcoal combustion-generated toxic and carcinogenic emissions,” she said. “Benzene is present in both tobacco smoke and burning charcoal emissions.”
Hookah smoking is different from cigarette smoking because it involves burning charcoal to heat tobacco that generates smoke that the user inhales. Kassem said many hookah smokers think hookah is safer than cigarettes. They mistakenly believe that when hookah smoke passes through water before it is inhaled the toxic chemicals are dissolved. Hookah lounges are not required to display health warnings, and, Kasem said, there are few health education programs on the harmful effects of hookah use, according to Fox News.