Cigarette smoking is dangerous to one's health because of its increased risk for medical conditions such as coronary heart disease, stroke, lung cancer and other problems. However, the dangers of smoking are not only confined to the smoker; it can also affect other people. Smoke affecting other people may be in the form of third-hand smoke– the smoke, its particles and its gasesleft in the air after a cigarette is put out. These smoke particles remain in the air and in the surface of the area where someone has smokes.
Third hand smoke is dangerous because it can also bring about the bad effects that cigarette smoke can bring to the user. The area where the smoker has frequented still contains traces of chemicals that are harmful to our health. Experts say that out of these many chemicals, eleven are considered carcinogens or substances that can cause cancers. These chemicals include nicotine, radioactive polonium-210, lead, cyanide, butane, arsenic, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Aside from the presence of these chemicals in the air, third-hand smoke may also be emitted by a process called off-gassing, in which substances from smoke that are in the surface of the area get released back into the air in the form of gases. In this way, the residue left by tobacco smoking emits toxins which may be inhaled and taken up by the body.
Aside from toxic chemicals which are being released into the air, exposure can also result from the interaction of substances emitted by third hand smoke with other chemicals in the environment. For example, third hand smoke may react with nitrous oxide in the air to form carcinogens known as nitrosamines. Nitrous oxide is present as gas from car engines and gas appliances. Another example is that volatile organic compounds in third hand smoke can react with ozone in the air to form formaldehyde and other toxic compounds that can bring negative effects on health.
People become exposed to third hand smoke by inhalation of smoke, by ingestion of particles through food or fingers placed in the mouth or through skin absorption. The skin has the capacity of absorbing medications and even harmful compounds from the atmosphere. Children are the ones who have greater risk of contacting third hand smoke than adults, and third hand smoke can gradually increase over time by repeated smoking in the home, inside the workplace or in vehicles. Places with high humidity are protected from third hand smoke, so places with low humidity carry a greater risk for exposure.
Third-Hand Smoke Is Deadly
A recent study done by researchers from the University of California, Riverside has found out that third hand smoke is just as deadly as second-hand smoke. The researchers studied mice which were exposed to third hand smoke and observed that there were significant damages to body organs in mice such as the liver and the lungs. They also found out that these mice showed changes in their organs and have elevated levels of a tobacco-specific carcinogen in their blood, a finding which has also been found in those exposed to second-hand smoke. Third hand smoke increased lipid levels in the blood and led to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, which can further lead to cancer, cirrhosis of the liver and cardiovascular diseases. The lungs showed findings similar to that of inflammation-related illnesses such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. There was also poor wound healing. The mice also showed hyperactivity in behaviour tests.
So how can you avoid third hand smoke? You should encourage your family, friends and co-workers to stop smoking. IF you cannot avoid being exposed to third-hand smoke, you can shower or wash after being exposed. You can also clean surfaces and materials exposed to third hand smoke with vinegar. You should also open windows of the areas which were exposed to smoke. Lastly, you should educate everyone you know about the benefits of a smoke-free environment.
If you want to know more on how to stop smoking, you can check out our other articles on this site.