Third-hand cigarette smoke is a big problem in non-smoking rooms: study

Most people know about second-hand smoke — the cigarette smoke you inhale when in close proximity to someone who is smoking. Less known is "third-hand" smoke, which is the residue that persists on smokers' clothes and other things after they've finished smoking. This third-hand smoke may have a bigger impact on health than thought, with researchers finding that it makes its way into non-smoking environments.

The research comes out of Drexel University and was recently published in the journal Science Advances. According to the study, the toxic chemicals found in cigarette smoke cling to anything near the person smoking. When brought indoors, those particles can enter the air and circulate through the non-smoking environment.

These chemicals can attach to aerosol particles, exposing anyone nearby to the harmful substances. Clothing is one notable example — someone may step outside to smoke, but some of the chemicals will cling to their clothing. When that person sits on furniture inside, some of those chemicals are then transferred, spreading the toxic presence.

Though indoor smoking bans can be an effective way to prevent exposure to second-hand smoke, the study raises concerns over third-hand smoke and the much greater difficulty in preventing exposure. Highlighting the troublesome existence of these toxic chemicals is doctoral student Anita Avery, who said:

In an empty classroom, where smoking has not been allowed in some time, we found that 29 percent of the entire indoor aerosol mass contained third-hand smoke chemical species. This was obviously quite startling and raised many questions about how that much third-hand smoke could be lingering in a non-smoking, ventilated room.

Researchers warn that the presence of third-hand smoke could be much higher in the home of a smoker where residue is introduced on a regular basis.

SOURCE: Drexel University