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What About Thirdhand Smoke?

Posted on November 19, 2013
by Wendy Stackhouse
Cigarette butts
Image by benedeki via stock.xhcng

The dangers of smoking are well-known:

Smoking causes the following cancers:1,2 (in alphabetical order)
Acute myeloid leukemia
Bladder cancer
Cancer of the cervix
Cancer of the esophagus
Kidney cancer
Cancer of the larynx (voice box)
Lung cancer
Cancer of the oral cavity (mouth)
Pancreatic cancer
Cancer of the pharynx (throat)
Stomach cancer

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Secondhand smoke isn’t much better:

Environmental tobacco smoke contains over 4000 different compounds and 40 known carcinogens. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that ETS causes between 150,000 and 300,000 respiratory tract infections every year in children under the age of 18 months and older children can have lower lung function. AirTek Blog, Secondhand Smoke and Kids, 12/20/2011.

Thirdhand smoke the smoke left behind when a cigarette has been extinguished and that residue left on surfaces and objects after the smoke itself has cleared.

Thirdhand smoke is less visible, of course, than secondhand smoke, but it can be even more dangerous to children because they are more likely to crawl on surfaces where carcinogens have been deposited and take those carcinogens into their bodies via touching toys or food with unwashed hands. Thirdhand smoke is especially problematic in enclosed spaces like cars.

According to the Mayo Clinic, “…thirdhand smoke clings to hair, skin, clothes, furniture, drapes, walls, bedding, carpets, dust, vehicles and other surfaces, even long after smoking has stopped. Infants, children and nonsmoking adults may be at risk of tobacco-related health problems when they inhale, ingest or touch substances containing thirdhand smoke.”

So if you wanted to know why it’s not really okay to smoke in the car with the windows down, why you should ask for a non-smoking rental car or hotel room and why you should not choose a restaurant with a smoking and a non-smoking section, you should think about thirdhand smoke.

Even if there is no visible smoke in the air, tobacco smoke is still damaging to your indoor air quality. And your health!

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