More than one study has looked at the issue of residual tobacco smoke. The results of the most recent study were released early in 2010. The earlier study recognized the presence of this smoke on indoor surfaces, and coined the term third hand smoke. The more recent study not only recognized the existence of residual smoke; it indicated its dangers.
Long after a smoker leaves a room, the smoke lingers in the air. It settles on surfaces and penetrates porous ones. The danger, according to the more recent study, is that the tobacco smoke mixes with common indoor air pollutants and forms tobacco-specific nitrosamines (TSNAs). These are potent carcinogens.
Nitrous acid is produced from gas ovens and burners that are not properly insulated. It is not an uncommon indoor air pollutant, and it was shown in the study to create TSNAs when mingled with residual tobacco smoke. What’s odd (and not a little frightening) is that the researchers discovered a TSNA that is not only tobacco-specific, but specific to residual tobacco smoke in particular. This is a TSNA that is not present in smoke that has recently been emitted. In other words, tobacco smoke may become more carcinogenic over time. There are a lot of chemical changes and reactions going on around us, apparently.
The catch is that improving indoor air circulation does not necessarily help. The problem comes from smoke that accumulates on household surfaces or is absorbed into porous materials. And no household objects are immune – children’s toys can harbor this deadly smoke just as the kitchen counter and family room carpet do. It is present in household dust, and we all know how ubiquitous that is!
Clothing is another big culprit in this new smoke. Parents may pride themselves on not smoking in the same room as their kids, or smoking outside only, but when they cuddle their baby even hours after having a cigarette, their clothing is rife with the stuff.
Adults and children are both vulnerable to the dangers of it, but babies and toddlers who explore the world through their mouths (and who are in close physical contact with adults) are especially at high risk.
We hope that The Dangers of Third Hand Smoke helps you to be more aware of this potentially life threatening issue!