If second-hand smoke wasn’t bad enough, now you have to worry about third-hand smoke, the lingering traces left behind in the objects long after the smoker has left the area. That’s the report from a late February conference at the University of California-Riverside, where professor Manuela Martins-Green and colleagues presented evidence that trace amounts of leftover smoke can actually affect wound healing and other bodily functions.
Martins-Green has a strong focus on finding out what second-hand smoke does to the human body, and it isn’t a pretty picture. For example, her team discovered one way that second-hand smoke can stimulate a high level of triglycerides to circulate in the bloodstream, which can lead to a form of cirrhosis of the liver even if you’re not an alcoholic.
OK, so second-hand smoke is what you get when you breathe in the air from someone else’s cigarette. What then, exactly, is third-hand smoke? Lowell Dale, a doctor for the Mayo Clinic, explained that it’s the stubborn, hard-to-remove residue that gets left behind on surfaces (especially indoor surfaces) to create a toxic chemical mishmash that clings to “hair, skin, clothes, furniture, drapes, walls, bedding, carpets, dust, vehicles and other surfaces, even long after smoking has stopped.”
Dr. Dale said that this chemical stew contains cancer-causing chemicals and that the only way to be entirely free of those chemicals is to maintain a completely smoke-free environment in your home and car.
The news just keeps getting worse for smokers who feel like their habit harms only themselves. I recently reported on a study that suggested that a grandmother’s smoking could cause asthma in her grandchild — even if the child’s mother didn’t smoke. A UK study has confirmed that their once-unpopular smoking ban resulted in a decrease in childhood asthma attacks.
The University of California researchers have called the examinations of the effects of third-hand smoke “a new frontier” for their research. According to their studies, second-hand smoke never really disappears.