Many people have heard about secondhand smoke or have experienced it being near a smoking bystander. But what about thirdhand smoke?
Thirdhand smoke is the tobacco smoke residue remaining after a cigarette has been smoked. It can be residual smoke left in the air, but can also accumulate on surfaces, furniture, clothing and in dust.
A recent study found that thirdhand smoke may be a new cause for concern among parents because of its ability to accumulate unbeknownst to the naked eye and remain toxic for extended periods of time. Unlike first and secondhand smoke, thirdhand smoke remains harmful even if smoking occurs when children are not physically present.
The project manager for Mass General’s Clinical Effort Against Secondhand Smoke Exposure (CEASE) program, Jeremy Drehmer, MPH, CPH, spoke on the implications in Pulmonary Advisor and we put together five things to know.
- Anyone can be exposed to thirdhand smoke by inhaling it, ingesting it or absorbing it through the skin.
- Since secondhand smoke refers to smoke in the air, it can be easily removed by ventilation. Thirdhand smoke is difficult to remove from household furniture and surfaces, and even public spaces, which allows for a much longer timeframe for exposure.
- Research shows thirdhand smoke contains chemicals that cause DNA damage, increases cancer risk, and has been linked to common pediatric conditions such as low birth weight, asthma, prediabetes and metabolic syndrome and hyperactivity.
- Young children are at greater risk for thirdhand smoke because they typically spend greater amounts of time at home, have smaller bodies, spend time on the ground or furniture where the smoke has settled, and young children often put their hands and toys in their mouths.
- While the best option to avoid thirdhand smoke may be to quit smoking completely, another solution could be to keep homes and cars completely smoke-free, even when children are not present.
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