Third hand smoke: The new cancer risk for children1

August 13, 2014

200317516-001Raising children in a smoke-free home isn’t enough to keep them away from cancer-causing toxins. “Third hand” tobacco smoke may be in your home, hiding in plain sight, according a recent study.
Researchers behind a York University study published in the journal Environmental International found that carcinogens from tobacco smoke can enter the home from outside (clothing, shoes, etc) and settle on surfaces and in dust, what’s now being called third hand smoke, and the long-term effects are especially dangerous for children between the ages of one and six.
“‘The risks of tobacco exposure do not end when a cigarette is extinguished,” said lead investigator, Dr. Jacqueline Hamilton.
Residual pollutants remain on surfaces and in dust and continue to emit toxic gases over time.
Researcher Professor Alastair Lewis adds, “Carcinogenic materials can be passed from smokers to non-smokers during shared contact, for example between clothes and surfaces and also enter homes via airborne transport of cigarette smoke.”
As smoking restrictions in public spaces have become more common, the home has become the primary space for passive smoke inhalation, also known as second hand smoke. A reported 600,000 deaths occur each year worldwide from second hand smoke.
The study is the first to reveal the presence of tobacco-related carcinogens in dust found in homes of non-smokers.
Dust samples were collected from the homes of smokers and non-smokers and studied for potential cancer risk by applying official toxicology information. Scientists found that the cancers risks for children aged one to six exceeded the limit recommended by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in two thirds of the non-smokers’ homes.
How to protect your home from third hand smoke
• Make your home TRULY smoke free. Don’t even limit your smoking to one special room, as it won’t be contained there.
• Do not smoke in the car. Third hand smoke can settle into the car seats.
• Remove carpeting from the home.
• Re-paint your walls if you or the previous homeowner was a smoker.
• Toss that old couch if you previously smoked.