We all know about firsthand and secondhand smoke, but have you ever heard of thirdhand smoke? It’s a relatively new thing, referring to the residues and smells left over in fabrics that stick long after the last cigarette was lit there. And it can absolutely kill you, according to scientists.
As if we didn’t have enough to worry about, folks smarter than you or I over at the Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory have determined that thirdhand smoke can cause damage to human genes and even lead to disease.
“Until this study, the toxicity of thirdhand smoke has not been well understood,” said one of the researchers. “Thirdhand smoke has a smaller quantity of chemicals than secondhand smoke, so it’s good to have experimental evidence to confirm its genotoxicity.”
Thirdhand smoke literally clings to every surface it can, and long after the secondhand smoke from a lit cigarette has dissipated. Chronic exposure to thirdhand smoke is a lot worse than acute exposure: The chemical compounds in samples exposed to chronic thirdhand smoke suggest that the residue becomes more harmful over time.
“This is the very first study to find that thirdhand smoke is mutagenic,” said another researcher on the project. “Tobacco-specific nitrosamines, some of the chemical compounds in thirdhand smoke, are among the most potent carcinogens there are. They stay on surfaces, and when those surfaces are clothing or carpets, the danger to children is especially serious.”
The biggest problem with thirdhand smoke is that its incredibly difficult to get rid of. Some studies have shown that it “sticks” around in apartments rented by smokers for up to two months after they have moved out.
So what can you do? Well, don’t bother vacuuming, wiping and ventilating.
“You can do some things to reduce the odors, but it’s very difficult to really clean it completely,” advised one of the researchers. “The best solution is to substitute materials, such as change the carpet, repaint.”
So basically, don’t buy a car, house or rent an apartment that … just stay away from smoking, okay?
Do you think that thirdhand smoke is harmful, or do you think that this study’s findings are accurate?
[Image via: somchai rakin / Shutterstock]