Passive smoking has long been known to have serious long term health consequences for people close to freshly exhaled cigarette smoke. Because of this we as a society have begun to regulate where smokers are allowed to smoke in public.
Now researchers have discovered that cigarette smoke can harm people in a new way, long after the smoke has disappeared.
They call it “Third Hand Smoke” (THS). THS is residue caused by cigarette smoke that remains on all kinds of surfaces for a very long time after a cigarette is finished. In most cases it will stay in place for over a month.
In fact, researchers from San Diego University conducted a study on houses that were regularly smoked in. They found that THS was still present over 6 months after the smoking resident had moved out.
So if you smoke in your home, THS is there right now.
Not many people are aware of third hand smoke, it is a reasonably new discovery. But the amount of research being done on the subject is growing rapidly. It is mainly dangerous to young children.
THS is known to contain all kinds of toxic chemicals and heavy metals. Including but not limited to things like arsenic, lead and cyanide (alongside over 12 additional known carcinogens).
The main risk from THS comes from when it is swallowed. We tend to keep most our food sealed away, so the potential for exposure to adults is limited. But the risk is still present- when THS attaches to dust particulates, it can be inhaled by a person of any age.
However ingestion is the main cause for concern, and this is what makes THS especially dangerous for young children.
Ask any parent and they will be able to tell you that a young child cannot resist putting everything, and anything they can get their hands on into their mouth. They can happily spend their day licking and tasting all kinds of random household objects if left to their own devices.
Just take a second to think how often this occurs on a day to day basis.
Now if a house is smoked in, every time a child sucks on a toy, or licks a random object they will be ingesting THS (absorbing the heavy metals, toxins and carcinogens as they do so).
Researchers have studied different methods of reducing THS exposure inside the home. Some of the more common tactics like opening a window, or smoking in a separate room, or using a fan were all examined. The end result was conclusive. There is literally no way to smoke inside your home without spreading THS throughout.
The best way to totally minimize your child’s exposure to THS is to quit smoking. It sounds obvious, but it really is the only way.
However, I realize not everyone reading this blog post is going to immediately quit smoking just because I said you should. Although we would love to welcome you to [virtual] our support group if you do quit!
Smoking outside is the only thing that you can do while remaining a smoker to prevent exposure. Every single time, wind, rain or shine you need to smoke outside. Just one cigarette is enough to contaminate your home with THS.
In fact, smoking outside will not totally reduce expsoure. THS will be present on your clothes, skin and hair. However, smoking outside is a significant improvement upon smoking indoors.
Current awareness of THS is low, and any smoking parent reading this can easily be forgiven for not knowing about its dangers.
But if you are a parent with young children, and you smoke inside your home please consider this article the next time you light up.
Smoking outside because of THS is inconvenient, but the dangers of THS are very real, and your children deserve to be protected from them.
About the Author: Belle Abernathy is a mother and tobacco control advocate volunteering with quitza.com fighting to end the global tobacco epidemic.
For more information and resources to assist with quitting smoking, visit tobaccofreelife.org.