Third-hand smoke, or the tobacco smoke gases and particles deposited to surfaces and dust in the home, can really increase a person’s risk of cancer, new study finds.
For the past years, scientists remained uncertain of the potential health risks of third-hand smoke, and therefore, it has not been considered in public policy. But the picture is getting clearer each day. Just recently, scientists from the University of York exposure to third-hand smoke may have potential long-term health consequences, especially to children.
Scientific research and media scrutiny have been focused on smoking and second-hand smoke for decades. It is a well-established fact that smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke can both increase cancer risk.
What about third-hand smoke?
The new research was carried out by York’s Wolfson Atmospheric Chemistry Laboratories, the National Centre for Atmospheric Science, and the Chromatography and Environmental Applications research group at the Universitat Rovira i Virgili, Spain.
Scientists found that among children ages one to 6 years old who live with smokers, the risk of cancer exceeded the limit recommended by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in three quarters, whilst the cancer risk among those who live in non-smoker’s homes are two-thirds higher.
The study was also the first to demonstrate the widespread presence of third-hand smoke and other related carcinogenic compounds in house dust, even among ‘smoke-free’ environments.
Health Risks of Tobacco Continue
The health risks of smoking do not end when it’s been extinguished or when the cigarette butt has been thrown away. According to Dr. Jacqueline Hamilton, the lead researcher, non-smokers, especially children, are also at risk when they come in contact with surfaces and dust contaminated with residual smoke gases and particles, or third-hand smoke.
In the study, Hamilton and her team examined exposure to carcinogen N-nitrosamines and tobacco specific nitrosamines (TSNAs) in the dust samples. These compounds are produced when nicotine deposits on indoor surfaces and then is released again to the gas phase or reacts with ozone, nitrous acid and other atmospheric oxidants. They are classified as carcinogenic for humans.
“While TSNAs have been suspected to form part of third hand smoke as a result of laboratory studies, we have demonstrated for the first time the presence of carcinogenic tobacco-specific compounds, such as TSNAs, in settled house dust found in a panel of smokers’ and non-smokers’ homes.” said Dr Noelia Ramirez, a Postdoctoral Research Fellow from York’s Wolfson Atmospheric Chemistry Laboratorie.
Third-hand smoke is the residual smoke that is very hard to eliminate. Often, it stays for several weeks and months long after the smoker has stopped. It is therefore critical to make homes and other venues smoke-free.