Tobacco smoke has added a new potential danger to its list of hazards: third-hand smoke. The term was coined in a study published in the medical journal, "Pediatrics," to describe the interaction of tobacco smoke with indoor surfaces.

Most people know that first-hand smoke is inhaled directly by a smoker and second-hand smoke is the smoke passively breathed in by people near someone smoking. Researchers have determined that third-hand smoke is the residue left on surfaces from second-hand smoke. The pungent scent of smoke that lingers in enclosed spaces long after a cigarette has been extinguished gives away the presence of third-hand smoke.

Parents often smoke when their children are out of the house to try to reduce second-hand smoke exposure. They also turn on fans to ventilate the room and let down a window in a car to dissipate cigarette smoke. However, these actions do not eliminate the health hazards associated with tobacco smoke. A study published in the journal, "Tobacco Control," found that the sticky residue from nicotine and tar can persist in carpets, furnishings, drapes, dust and on skin and clothes for several months after smoking had ceased.

New research has shown that residual nicotine reacts with a common air pollutant, nitrous acid, which is a combustion product generated with the use of gas-powered appliances and vehicle engines. The nicotine and nitrous acid combine to form more carcinogenic compounds. These small particles can enter the body either through skin exposure, dust inhalation or ingestion.

According to the Mayo Clinic, it can take two to three minutes for a smoker to stop exhaling the toxins of smoke after their last puff. Third-hand smoke can remain on or in the smoker long enough to settle in places considered smoke-free. Babies and toddlers are of particular concern, since they have far greater exposure to contaminated surfaces. Although adults are discouraged from smoking when children are present, this is not enough. Making the home and car a hundred percent smoke-free will protect your loved ones, human and animal.

There are ways to minimize the impact of third-hand smoke in residences and automobiles:
Aca,!Ac Detoxify your home and vehicle. Tobacco smoke will infiltrate every crevice. Open windows and doors and let in fresh air when the weather permits.
Aca,!Ac Do a thorough cleaning. Start by washing all clothing, bedcovers, drapes and furnishings. This includes windows, doors, walls, ceilings, kitchen cabinets, wall hangings, light fixtures, blinds and shades.
Aca,!Ac Steam-clean carpet and upholstered furniture and car seats. Make sure to use a cleaning agent and not just a deodorizer that only masks the smell.
Aca,!Ac Remove smoke-infused wallpaper.
Aca,!Ac Replace all heating and air conditioning filters regularly.
Aca,!Ac Use several coats of non-toxic sealant and paint to prevent odors and nicotine stains from leaching through the paint.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16