Third-Hand Smoke May Pose Risks

We have long been writing that smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in America, with cigarettes linked to some 443,000 deaths and $100 billion spent in healthcare costs annually. Second-hand smoke has been linked to a variety of health issues. Now, <"">third-hand smoke, it seems, also poses risks.

Third-hand smoke is that smoke residue that sticks to walls, carpets, furniture and surfaces, and the dust in an area, said Sign-On San Diego, remaining up to three months after a smoker has moved out of a place. This means, when a nonsmoker moves in, he or she can be ingesting these tobacco residues, according to a San Diego State University study, wrote Sign-On San Diego.

Cigarette toxins can be hazardous to infants and children who sit, crawl, or play on floors and put their fingers in their mouths, said lead researcher Dr. Georg Matt, a psychology professor at SDSU, reported Sign-On San Diego. The study, titled “When smokers move out and non-smokers move in: Residential third-hand smoke pollution and exposure,” was published online by Tobacco Control, a peer-reviewed journal for health professions, and will appear in the January print edition.

“When you consider buying a new home or moving into a new apartment, ask the landlord if the previous occupant smoked,” said Dr. Matt. “If they did, as your child or pet or you move around the home, chances are that you unknowingly will end up with these compounds on your hands and eventually in your body. Some are known carcinogens and toxins that can do all sorts of harm.”

The study reviewed 25 homes belonging to former smokers after nonsmokers moved in as well as a control group of 16 homes of former and current nonsmokers, said Sign-On Sand Diego. The researchers measured tobacco residues on surfaces, in dust, on residents’ fingers, and in the urine of children, explained Sign On San Diego. Measurements on smokers’ homes were taken before the smokers evacuated and, again, about one month before nonsmokers moved in; homes were vacant for about two months and had been cleaned, said Sign On San Diego. In many cases, homes were painted and new flooring had been installed.

In five cases, nonsmokers reported signs of previous cigarette smoke such as smell or yellow spots on the ceiling, said Sign On San Diego. The research indicated nicotine levels seven times greater on the surfaces and five times greater in the dust of homes previously owned by smokers, said Sign On San Diego.

Nonsmokers who moved into homes that had been owned by smokers tested with nicotine levels on their skin seven-to-eight times greater than the residents of the control homes, with cotinine levels—a tobacco biomarker—testing at three-to-five times greater in children living in the homes of former smokers, said Sign On San Diego.

Secondhand smoke contains over 4,000 substances, including over 50 known or suspected carcinogens, and is linked to many diseases in adults and children, such as sudden infant death syndrome, acute respiratory infections, middle ear disease, asthma, coronary heart disease, lung and sinus cancers, sinus problems, mental problems, and hearing loss. Some 126 million nonsmokers—60 percent of all U.S. non-smokers—are exposed to secondhand smoke. The implications for third-hand smoke are staggering.

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