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Thirdhand smoke may be more hazardous than prevously understood

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

Thirdhand smoke is now found to pose greater health risks than previously understood.

The negative health consequences of smoking and inhaling second-hand smoke are well known. Recently researchers have uncovered the dangers of thirdhand smoke that comes from toxic nicotine byproducts lingering in carpets, paper and fabric.

Researchers now say nicotine interacting with ozone creates even more health hazards from thirdhand smoke than previously understood. Scientists from Faculty of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Technion - Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa, Israel examined what happens to nicotine byproducts that land on various surfaces and the effect of humidity.

The scientists conducted the study to find out how toxic thirdhand smoke (THS) really is; based on studies that nicotine byproducts that linger in the home, posing dangers especially to children who crawl and place objects in their mouth.

The authors write, "Thus, secondary organic aerosol (SOA) formation from nicotine-oxidant reactions indoors may play a role in the observed adverse health effects associated with passive smoking." Nicotine byproducts can settle on food and furniture, forming pollutants that can be ingested through the skin and mucous membranes.

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They found thirdhand smoke has "greater biological interaction, potential pro-inflammatory effects, higher particle deposition probability in the deeper respiratory regions and easier translocation within the body," based on their findings.

The research, conducted by Yael Dubowski and colleagues, looked at common surfaces in the household, including cellulose that is a component of wood furniture, cotton, and paper, found in most households and toxins that are formed under different conditions, including wet and dry.

Based on the findings, the authors conclude, "Given the toxicity of some of the identified products and that small particles may contribute to adverse health effects, the present study indicates that exposure to [thirdhand smoke] may pose additional health risks."

The study results showed thirdhand smoke forms a variety of toxins on common surfaces found in the home. The authors say, based on their findings, exposure to thirdhand smoke could occur for "hours to days", posing more health risks than may have been previously understood.

Source: American Chemical Society