Breaking it down: What is ‘Third-hand Smoke’?
Third- hand smoke (THS) isn’t actually smoke at all. It’s the residual remnants of Nicotine and other toxic chemicals in Tobacco, that remain long after active smoking is over.
These toxic chemicals tend to stick to surfaces and attach to dust particles. They may also stick and penetrate deep into surfaces of clothes, wallboards, upholstery and drapes. As the compounds linger, they may react with oxidants or other particles in the room’s atmosphere. The chemical reactions can create potentially harmful by products that can become airborne. When combining with indoor pollutants, Third- hand Smoke becomes highly toxic. Third- hand Smoke can also come in contact with you when you breathe in lingering gas left on these surfaces.
A study out of Yale University revealed that the chemical exposure levels could be the equivalent of between one and 10 cigarettes Third- hand Smoke can actually cling to a smoker’s body and clothes as well. People tend to be carriers of Third- hand Smoke contaminants and help transfer them to other environments. Those potentially toxic chemicals, including some that are known to be known carcinogens in people, such as benzene and formaldehyde. These chemicals including nicotine, can then be released into environments where smoking has never occurred, like your movie theatre.
Scientists have come up with research that show human gene expressions and cells can be drastically affected by third-hand smoke. Third hand Smoke can harm a person’s respiratory health by changing gene expressions. THS inhalation for even a short period of only three hours can significantly alter gene expression in the nasal epithelium of healthy non-smokers, damaging DNA, and exposing them to cancer as a potential long-term outcome.
A common misconception that many adult smokers have is that they tend to think that since they smoke outside, their family within their house will not get exposed. However, these smokers tend to carry chemicals like nicotine indoors with their clothes and it is important to understand that the THS is real and potentially harmful.
The Damage is real …
Third- hand Smoke affects and impairs health in so many ways. However, if you have a family member who smokes, avoiding exposure to Third- hand Smoke as a non-smoker can be a huge challenge.
- THS x Children
Third- hand Smoke impacts a child’s health in multiple ways. According to research and studies, children are the most vulnerable to such effects. This is because they’re more likely to touch surfaces and put objects near their noses and mouths.
Children exposed to Third- hand Smoke at home are exposed to Asthma, Ear Infections, Pneumonia and other frequent illnesses. Studies have shown that children who grow up with parents who smoke are at an increased risk of smoking themselves.
- THS x Infants
Third- hand Smoke has a drastic impact on infants. Studies have shown that smoke exposure is one of the biggest risk factors for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Third- hand Smoke exposure for infants is a serious health risk as it makes them vulnerable to the same health risks as older children, including frequent illnesses and respiratory problems.
- THS x Adults
While adults may not be as vulnerable as babies and growing children, adults too fall prey to the effects of Third- hand Smoke. Adults tend to be at a higher risk of cancer later in life from repeated exposure to cigarette toxins. Smoke exposure can lead to all types of cancers like cancer of the Lungs, Bladder, Cervix, Kidneys, Mouth, Pancreas and Throat. Short-term, Third- hand Smoke can lead to a lot of illnesses and infections.
- THS x Pregnant Women
Pregnant woman are at a great risk when exposed to Third- hand Smoke as it can negatively affect the unborn baby. Toxins from the chemical residue emitted by Third- hand Smoke can be transferred through breath or surfaces risking exposure of absorbing toxins from the smoke into your bloodstream. This can then transfer directly over to the foetus
Tackling Third- hand Smoke
The most impactful way to fight Third- hand Smoke is to avoid exposure altogether. If you’re a non-smoker, this could entail avoiding the homes and common areas of those who smoke.
However, if you are a smoker and your home has been exposed to cigarette smoke, below are a few steps that can help you get rid of the residue that leads to Third- hand exposure. You can:
- Wash all your clothing.
- Wash all bedding and linens.
- Thoroughly mop all hard surfaces.
- Scrub down counters, walls, and ceilings.
- Get your carpet and rugs professionally cleaned.
- Clean all toys.
- Wash all other fabrics around your home, including furniture.
- As a rule of thumb, if a building smells like smoke, there’s probably residue left on surfaces and needs a thorough cleaning.
- Make sure smokers change their clothing and wash their hands often. This is especially important before contact with children and infants.