It has long been known that smoking is harmful and that the effects of secondhand smoke can be hugely dangerous, but do we need to worry about “thirdhand smoke” now too?
This concept is relatively new but has been the subject of a lot of research, and refers to the residual smoke that stays in houses and rooms after someone has been smoking in it that sticks to clothes if we have spent time in the smoky atmosphere.
Most people will have experienced the irritation of clothes or rooms smelling smoky, but this smell shows that harmful toxins also remain.
Tobacco smoke contains many different gasses, carcinogens and heavy metals, many of which are highly toxic.
Lead, cyanide and arsenic are highly dangerous to health, and studies have shown that particles of nicotine stick to walls, ceilings, soft furnishings and furniture, and the gases produced by the tobacco smoke can be absorbed into many different types of fabric.
A study conducted by the International Academy of Indoor Air Sciences found that chemicals such as these are then released back into the air and the level of harmful compounds is still dangerously high, even when the smoking has stopped.
More and more evidence is coming to light that shows that this lingering smoke, or thirdhand smoke, poses large health risks.
A study conducted by the Surgeon General has proved that there is no such thing as a ‘safe level’ of exposure, and that all amounts of exposure are dangerous. This study also showed that toxins from tobacco smoke are still dangerous even when there is no active smoking if it is breathed.
A study was conducted and published in 2010 which proved that thirdhand smoke actually creates carcinogens. It showed that nicotine in tobacco smoke reacted with certain components of indoor air – mainly nitrous acid – and from this mix, carcinogens were formed. As nicotine can linger on various surfaces for large amounts of times – even weeks – which means that carcinogens continued to be formed. These carcinogens can then be breathed in, causing damage.
Studies have shown that the people at highest risk of thirdhand smoke exposure are the children of smokers. This is because smoke residue is very present in clothing, homes, and automobiles, which are all strong receptors of thirdhand smoke. Children are more at risk than most other people as they are much more likely to put their hands in their mouths after touching a surface which has this thirdhand smoke residue on it, which means that they end up ingesting these toxins.
An article about thirdhand smoke was published in the journal Pediatrics. This hugely raised the awareness of the health problems caused by thirdhand smoke and the levels that children were being exposed to. While this went a long way in helping awareness to members of the public, the study also showed that while people are very aware of the dangers of secondhand smoke there is almost no knowledge of thirdhand smoke. It showed that there needed to be large gains in awareness of the dangers of thirdhand smoke.
As more and more is discovered about thirdhand smoke, it is becoming more and more obvious that there need to be many more smoke-free environments available. There are also many exceptions to the smoke free law that allow smoking at private events in public areas, and this increased awareness of thirdhand smoke shows why these kind of exemptions need to be stopped as they are proving a danger to health.
San Diego State University’s Department of Psychology conducted a survey on the homes of ex-smokers and former smokers. This study proved that the houses stayed polluted with the toxins caused by thirdhand smoke for up to 6 months after the occupants had stopped smoking. The toxins from the smoke had settled in with the house dust and on furnishings and furniture. This caused a continuation of exposure to both nicotine and NNK (which is a carcinogen specific to tobacco). This shows the level of danger that thirdhand smoking presents to all people even after they have quit smoking.
This awareness of thirdhand smoke is something that needs to be focused on by people in all walks of life. It’s important that everyone become educated on just how much of a health risk exposure to thirdhand smoke is, and take all precautions possible to avoid this in areas where people are present.
The only real way to deal with thirdhand smoke is to completely eliminate smoking in these areas at all times of the day and night, as this is the only way that thirdhand smoke will cease to be an issue. Then, a thorough cleanup of the area to remove all traces of smoke particles and carcinogens should be performed.
Adding an air purifier to the room is also great way to help strip the surfaces of these toxins, as well as keep the air continually clean for people to breathe. A dedicated smoke air purifier is also excellent at removing the odor left behind by smoke too. If you want fast results with cleaning your home or business thoroughly from thirdhand smoke contaminants, an air purifier is a great investment. In fact, many Cigar shops use these devices inside their locations in order to keep their environments smelling fresh and clean and not laden with tobacco odor.
Thirdhand smoke can be eliminated, if we take the proper steps to do it.
For those of you who do smoke or live with a smoker, there are some easy tricks for how to get rid of smoke smell in a house that you can try. Take a look at that post to see if any of those options can help with the tobacco odors inside your home.