- A new study finds that levels of third-hand smoke can linger in homes for years at dangerous levels.
- Two of the three compounds in third-hand smoke can cause cancer and can be ingested by inhalation of air and dust and by skin contact.
- Even in homes without a noticeable smoke smell, pollutants can remain.
Thirdhand smoke is what researchers use to describe what cigarettes leave behind on the surfaces, walls and furnishings of a home after the smoke leaves.
When the nicotine in cigarette smoke interacts with nitric acid, a common molecule in indoor (and outdoor) air, it leaves behind a residue of three compounds, two of which (known by the abbreviations NNK and NNN) are known carcinogens. known
This trio of
Researchers from the US Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have published a new study on thirdhand smoke (THS) that predicts the potential exposure of non-smokers living in residences where it has occurred smoking.
Researchers found that the amount of these chemicals present in a home where smoking has occurred regularly can exceed California’s safety guidelines.
The study appears in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.
In California, the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) created a Prop. 65 Not significant
Risk levels (NSRL) of 14 nanograms per day for NNK. Long-term exposure to compounds through inhalation, dust ingestion, direct contact, airborne deposition to the skin, and epidermal chemistry were assessed by the study as above the California NSRL.
said study co-author Professor Georg Matt of San Diego State University Medical News Today:
“We know from other studies that third-hand smoke can persist for years in heavily smoked homes. Let me give you an example: We found very high levels of THS in the home of a non-smoker who had lived in this home. for over 20 years, previously a pack a day smoker, quit 9 years ago and has not smoked or allowed smoking in the apartment since.”
The principal investigator of the study, Dr. Hugo Destaillats, Senior Scientist in the Indoor Environment Group in the Energy and Environmental Impact Analysis Division, spoke to MNT and noted some important findings from a previous study involving more than 200 homes.
“I’m talking about sizes from a few micrograms per square meter to thousands of micrograms per square meter.”
Dr. Destaillats said that short visits to such homes – or public spaces or restaurants where smoking was previously allowed – should not be a cause for concern, even if they exceed the NSRL.
“We calculated the daily dose that someone could inhale or swallow, or be subject to through the skin. These are chronic exposures over long periods of time. We all go to places where many people smoke. We can have extremely high exposures for short periods of time. If we integrate it over years, that exposure is nothing.”
– Dr. Hugo Destaillats
“The presence of the smell of stale tobacco smoke is a reliable indicator of pollution from third-hand smoke,” said Prof. Matt. “However, the lack of wind is not a reliable indicator of the lack of THS”, he emphasized.
“This is because not all of the chemicals found in THS are aromatic, and some of the aromatic components of THS may have disappeared,” he explained.
Dr. Rachael A. Record, an associate professor in the School of Communication at San Diego State University, who was not involved in the study, explained Medical News Today“Even in a newly cleaned space, third-hand smoke reservoirs can persist, re-emitting toxic substances back into the environment.”
Noting that “Real estate agents have tools, and painting is one way to reduce odors temporarily,” Dr. Destaillats quoted an often-heard comment: “We moved into the house, it smelled good at first, and now we have some doubts.”
Dr. Destaillats explained that this could be because the gypsum dust inside the drywall is “a huge sink for tobacco pollutants.”
Dr. Record suggested some steps people can take to remove or minimize thirdhand smoke from a place.
“The most effective way to protect yourself from third-hand smoke is to remove and replace all places where third-hand smoke can persist,” he said.
“This includes removing furniture and decorations that were in the room, such as couches and curtains, as well as replacing carpets, drywall and other materials where third-hand smoke can easily stick.”
– Dr. Rachael A. Record
“A more cost-effective solution,” said Dr. Record, “would be opening windows regularly to create a breeze, frequently washing fabrics and wiping down surfaces, and cleaning regularly with a HEPA filter. These solutions will not remove the reservoirs, but they will provide some relief.”
“The success of remediation efforts depends on the extent to which the indoor environment is contaminated by third-hand smoke,” said Prof. matt.
“If you’re buying a house where someone has been smoking for years, there’s not much you can do except gut it and remodel.” He also approved the use of HEPA filters in vacuums and air cleaners.
Dr. Destaillats said cleaning with certain cleaning products can be a good first step: “Another thing people do is paint. Coating, with some products, locks in contaminants.”
However, Dr. Destaillats noted concerns about the lack of research on the effectiveness of painting for long-term neutralization of toxins.
Finally, he said, one might consider using an ozone generator, which “are effective, let’s say very short-term, to remove odors. And then the question is, again, long-term.”
Dr. Destaillats said his team is evaluating how well ozone generators remove surface pollutants.
“We are not measuring smells. We are measuring surface concentrations,” said Dr. Destaillats.
“Electronic cigarettes are a source of nicotine in the indoor environment,” said Dr. Destaillats. “We have shown this and many other studies have shown this.”
He said the amount of smoke emitted by e-cigarettes is lower than traditional cigarettes “for a simple reason, which is that e-cigarettes are only activated when the user puffs, and then, between puffs, there is no emission. Whereas cigarettes emit regardless of whether the person blows or not.”
E-cigarettes are also cleaner in that they release fewer chemicals into the air.
“However, the only chemical that is emitted at the same level is nicotine, because that was the whole point of e-cigarettes: to replace the dose of nicotine that people get with a regular cigarette with an e-cigarette,” added Dr. Destaillats.
“In the beginning,” recalled Dr. Destaillats, “we [the Berkeley Lab] there was a paper in 2010 that, I think, was very influential, and in a way, initiated this interest in thirdhand smoke. And then after that, there were a number of studies that strengthened our understanding.”
“What we’re doing now in this paper is to incorporate all of that into some simple models to predict what the potential exposure of non-smokers living in those environments is.”
“So our research group,” continued Dr. Destaillats, “is part of a larger organization that we call the Third Party Smoke Consortium. The consortium has been active for almost a decade now. The money for the fund comes directly from sales taxes on cigarettes and e-cigarettes.”
The consortium uses the funds for research and educational programs. “We have an important activity in engaging the public and translating research into actionable steps,” he said.
The consortium’s Thirdhand Smoke Resource Center is a comprehensive resource for those who want to know more about thirdhand smoke in their homes.
Dr. Matt, also a member of the consortium, said: “We are inviting selected participants – mainly parents of young children living in California – to take part in a small-scale pilot study using DIY [home-testing] complete.”
Visit the Third Smoke Resource Center FAQ page for more information. The Resource Center also welcomes email inquiries.