Third-Hand Smoke?

Most of us have heard about the health dangers related to smoking and second-hand smoke, but third-hand smoke? It’s a real thing and a new study just published in the journal Science Advances suggests it could be harmful to your health.

From the Washington Post:

First came doctors’ warnings about cigarettes. Then came discoveries about the danger of secondhand smoke. Now, a growing number of scientists are raising the alarm about thirdhand smoke — residual chemicals left on indoor surfaces by tobacco smoke.

Mounting research has shown such potentially hazardous residue can be absorbed through the skin, ingested and inhaled months and even years after the smoke has dissipated.

One study published this year showed thirdhand smoke increased risk of lung cancer in mice. Another study published last year showed an increased risk of liver damage and diabetes in mice. A third study published this year focused on casinos and showed that six months after smoking was banned, heavy smoke residue remained on the walls and carpet.

According to NBC News, “the lingering smoke particles — called thirdhand smoke — can be picked up and spread all around buildings by forced air HVAC systems. That could mean that people need to be aware not only of secondhand smoke from cigarettes and other tobacco products, but might need to worry about people taking smoke breaks outside, or even the residue from years ago.”

Peter DeCarlo, an atmospheric chemist at Drexel University in Philadelphia and lead author of the study, put together a short video to explain third-hand smoke in greater detail. You can watch it by clicking here or on the picture below.


National Public Radio (NPR) quoted Neal Benowitz, professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco and a leader of the California Consortium on Thirdhand Smoke. as saying scientists have known for some time that the nicotine levels in walls and furniture can persist for years.

The chemistry of this is very interesting. What this study shows is that thirdhand smoke moves around the room. With thirdhand smoke, there is a constant source of exposure, day after day after day. It’s certainly a concern and explains how people can be exposed to these chemicals even when they aren’t regularly around smokers.

We’d love to hear your thoughts about this new study and whether you believe third-hand smoke is an issue we should be paying more attention to. Generating meaningful conversations around the health stories making headlines is another way we are working toward our long-term goal of one day making Arizona the Healthiest State in the Nation!

One thought on “Third-Hand Smoke?

  1. I have been asthmatic for quite a long time now. Prior to being asthmatic, I used to be a smoker when quite young for about 12 years and then stopped when I became pregnant. It was a fortunate event for me. When about 30 I developed Asthma and can tell you from experience that I am now allergic to smoke and am unable to stay in an environment that had smokers in it but no active smoking going on. I start to wheeze and need to leave the area in order to avoid an asthma attack. So the third hand smoke reported is very real and needs to be addressed. Most likely it can also make people sick who aren’t asthmatic.


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