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Study Shows That Thirdhand Smoke Carries Carcinogens

Forget Breathing In the Fumes; Just Being Near a Smoker Is Bad

Smoking is a bad habit and a serious health risk. It's dangerous even if you're not a smoker: 3,000 nonsmokers die in the US every year due to complications arising from secondhand smoke. Things aren't looking better for us nonsmokers either. A new study suggests that this number has the potential to rise because of risks associated with "thirdhand smoke."

Thirdhand smoke is the residue left behind after a cigarette is put out. It's invisible and settles into clothes, skin, and surfaces, often leaving behind a faint scent of cigarettes. My nose is pretty adept at picking up the scent of cigarettes on clothing, in a room, or even in a car, so I'm pretty certain that I've been around thirdhand smoke before. It's not pleasant, but I never thought that it could pose a risk to my health.

To find out about the dangers associated with thirdhand smoke,


Researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory were building on earlier research showing that thirdhand smoke is potentially harmful, especially to children and infants. What researchers found this time around is that when nitrous acid — a common air pollutant created by automobiles and gas appliances — is exposed to thirdhand smoke, new carcinogens are created. Researchers at the Lawrence lab found that carcinogen levels increased by 10 times after the two pollutants were exposed to one another.

With the research only in its early stages, there is no way to know how harmful exposure to thirdhand smoke is at this time. However, researchers warn that there is a definite "unappreciated health risk," especially to children. Since thirdhand smoke is a sticky residue, it's recommended that smokers do not smoke in confined spaces like homes or cars and that they wash their clothing and skin frequently. People exposed to thirdhand smoke absorb it through their skin or from breathing in dust. If you live with a smoker, it may help to invest in an air purifier.

Image Source: Getty
Join The Conversation
doogirl doogirl 7 years
I've known this for years, I mean, how could it not be bad? My husband would get frustrated with me because I wouldn't let his Mom hold my daughters when they were babies because she smoked. Even my Mom told me I was overreacting! But I knew it was bad for them! She's quit now and can hold them all she wants!
natasha1970 natasha1970 7 years
I think that the best bet for anyone who wants to quit is to join a gym! Once you get on those machines and huff and puff and realise that you're truly unhealthy, it may change your perspective. You could also do some medical tests to find out about the various things that will go wrong with you soon....I did that too and it scared me...which is why i joined the gym...and smoking? It's out of the question!!
Vanonymous Vanonymous 7 years
Good for you, Natasha! And hang in there, Russianmuse! My boyfriend smoked for years and quit cold turkey in August. I had seen a lot of people on this site talking about the book "The Easy Way to Quit Smoking". I bought it for him and he found it really helpful. He also found it helpful to keep a list on his iphone of all the negative effects of smoking. Whenever he wanted one, he would look at the list and it would help remind him of his goals.
ticamorena ticamorena 7 years
I quit smoking a couple of years ago, and one of the major factors was the stink- you just know something that smells as bad as fags do must be toxic. On the other hand, I find the smell of alcohol (especially beer) on peoples' breath or even in a club or house (after a party etc) equally nauseating...
natasha1970 natasha1970 7 years
I was a smoker for many years - at least 20 years and last year i quit cold turkey and joined a gym...i've never looked back since...i feel so good when i breathe! Now that i've quit it's hard for me to be around others who smoke...IT STINKS!! Yuck!! I also imagine what goes on in their lungs!!
runningesq runningesq 7 years
Good luck Russian! you can do it !
Pistil Pistil 7 years
That's kind of disturbing. The house I live in had been smoked in and that residue is incredibly hard to get rid of. After several washes it still seeps through the walls. I can't imagine how much residue gets built up in homes where people smoke on a regular basis. When I was a cashier I encountered people who obviously smoked in their homes, in their cars... Even their credit cards were yellow.
Spectra Spectra 7 years
Oh yeah, I can not stand to be in a home where people smoke inside, even if they aren't actively smoking in the house. This is partially why we were very careful to buy a house where the previous owners were nonsmokers. It is almost impossible to remove cigarette smoke from carpet, curtains, etc. Same goes for buying a used car, too. I remember when we were kids, we'd go to my grandpa and grandma's house where my grandpa would chainsmoke at the dining room table all day. I remember that when we came home from spending the weekend there, we would absolutely reek of smoke for days.
northen123 northen123 7 years
I'm trying to quit smoking (day 4). I always felt really guilty about smoking around my mum, although she said that she didn't mind. Even worse if I'm outside a woman has her kids in a pram or something. It's good that people are becoming more aware.
tlsgirl tlsgirl 7 years
My neighbors are such giant smokers that I've had to put towels under my door to keep out their ashtray-like smell. And I moved in thinking it was a non-smoking building! I get it sometimes, but honestly, it stinks up the entire hallway and gets in my clothes and carpeting. I kind of hate them.
Camarogirl67 Camarogirl67 7 years
Just being around my mom after she smokes is enough to make me start coughing, sneezing, and my airways get inflammed. I'm so allergic! I knew I wasn't crazy.
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