National Geographic News
Cigarette

In addition to cancer, thirdhand smoke could be responsible for asthma attacks and allergic reactions.

PHOTOGRAPH BY BECKY HALE AND MARK THIESSEN

Susan Brink

for National Geographic

Published March 20, 2014

It took decades to prove that cigarette smoking causes cancer, heart disease, and early death. It took additional years to establish that secondhand smoke also kills.

Now scientists are worried about another cigarette-related phenomenon: thirdhand smoke. It's real, and it's ubiquitous. Without knowing it, indoor smokers have left a toxic legacy that continues years after their last butt was stubbed out.

Researchers now know that residual tobacco smoke, dubbed thirdhand smoke, combines with indoor pollutants such as ozone and nitrous acid to create new compounds. Thirdhand smoke mixes and settles with dust, drifts down to carpeting and furniture surfaces, and makes its way deep into the porous material in paneling and drywall. It lingers in the hair, skin, clothing, and fingernails of smokers—so a mother who doesn't smoke in front of her kids, smokes outside, then comes inside and holds the baby is exposing that child to thirdhand smoke. The new compounds are difficult to clean up, have a long life of their own, and many may be carcinogenic.

One of those compounds, a tobacco-specific nitrosamine known as NNA, damages DNA and could potentially cause cancer. "Thirdhand smoke is harmful to our genetic material," Bo Hang, a scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, said at a news conference this week at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society, where the research was presented. "And the contamination becomes more toxic with time."

Twenty Years and Counting

No one knows, in this relatively new field of research, how long the compounds created by smoke and environmental pollutants last. "In homes where we know no smoker has lived for 20 years, we've still found evidence of these compounds in dust, in wallboard," says Neal Benowitz, chief of the Division of Clinical Pharmacology at the University of California, San Francisco. Benowitz leads the California Consortium on Thirdhand Smoke, started in 2010.

Scientists do know that babies, toddlers, and children are most vulnerable to the toxic effects of tobacco smoke residue. They crawl on rugs, fall asleep on carpets, and teethe on furniture, all of which could be saturated with thirdhand smoke.

Researchers aren't just worried about the risk of cancer. Thirdhand smoke could be responsible for other health problems, including asthma attacks and allergic reactions.

Hotel workers who sweep, vacuum, change linens, and dust the rooms of smokers are exposed to higher doses of thirdhand smoke than are the guests who stay a few nights in smoking rooms. Science hasn't yet quantified the amount of exposure that poses a health risk, and hasn't determined with certainty what those health risks might be. But any bar, casino, rental car, or indoor space that welcomed smokers in the past could still have ample amounts of thirdhand smoke.

Those who move into houses or apartments formerly owned by smokers might be exposed as well. And thirdhand smoke is difficult to eliminate. "So far, we have not found an exposed environment where you cannot measure it any more," says Georg Matt, chair of the Department of Psychology at San Diego State University in California. "It's virtually impossible to remove this stuff unless you remove the flooring and drywall."

How to Get Rid of It

Experts have precious few suggestions for ridding an indoor environment of thirdhand smoke. "Do a pretty thorough cleaning up with detergent. Some people suggest repainting the room," says Hang. "The best approach is to replace the carpets, clean up the ventilation system. All this could help. But we are waiting for some kind of new-generation cleaner." Much more work needs to be done on the extent of the problem, the health risks, and effective ways to clean up the compounds.

"For now, we don't yet know how much is out there, or how much is going to hurt you," says Benowitz. "I think we should advise parents not to expose their children to thirdhand smoke, not to rent hotel rooms or cars used by smokers. If you can avoid it, avoid it."

48 comments
Carol Thompson
Carol Thompson

"One of those compounds, a tobacco-specific nitrosamine known as NNA, damages DNA and could potentially cause cancer. "Thirdhand smoke is harmful to our genetic material," Bo Hang, a scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, said at a news conference this week at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society, where the research was presented. "And the contamination becomes more toxic with time."

Liar!  N'-Nitrosonornicotine (NNN), CAS No. 16543-55-8, p. 320: "No epidemiological studies were identified that evaluated the relationship between human cancer and exposure specifically to N-nitrosonornicotine." NNK and N′-nitrosoanatabine (NAT), N′-nitrosoanabasine (NAB), 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanone (NNK), 4-(Methylnitrosamino)-4-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanol (iso-NNAL) were not listed among the carcinogens. (Report on Carcinogens, Twelfth Edition, 2011.)

 http://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/ntp/roc/twelfth/profiles/Nitrosamines.pdf

Carol Thompson
Carol Thompson

The anti-smokers commit flagrant scientific fraud by ignoring more than 50 studies which show that human papillomaviruses cause at least 1/4 of non-small cell lung cancers. Smokers and passive smokers are more likely to have been exposed to this virus for socioeconomic reasons. And the anti-smokers' studies are all based on lifestyle questionnaires, so they're cynically DESIGNED to blame tobacco for all those extra lung cancers that are really caused by HPV. And they commit the same type of fraud with every disease they blame on tobacco.

http://www.smokershistory.com/hpvlungc.htm
http://www.smokershistory.com/SGlies.html
http://www.smokershistory.com/SGHDlies.html

And, all their so-called "independent" reports were ring-led by the same guy, Jonathan M. Samet, including the Surgeon General Reports, the EPA report, the IARC report, and the ASHRAE report, and he's now the chairman of the FDA Committee on Tobacco. He and his politically privileged clique exclude all the REAL scientists from their echo chamber. That's how they make their reports "unanimous!"
 
http://www.smokershistory.com/Samet.htm
 
For the government to commit fraud to deprive us of our liberties is automatically a violation of our Constitutional rights to the equal protection of the laws, just as much as if it purposely threw innocent people in prison. And for the government to spread lies about phony smoking dangers is terrorism, no different from calling in phony bomb threats.

John Davidson
John Davidson

This pretty well destroys the Myth of second hand smoke:

http://vitals.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/01/28/16741714-lungs-from-pack-a-day-smokers-safe-for-transplant-study-finds?lite

Lungs from pack-a-day smokers safe for transplant, study finds.

By JoNel Aleccia, Staff Writer, NBC News.

Using lung transplants from heavy smokers may sound like a cruel joke, but a new study finds that organs taken from people who puffed a pack a day for more than 20 years are likely safe.

What’s more, the analysis of lung transplant data from the U.S. between 2005 and 2011 confirms what transplant experts say they already know: For some patients on a crowded organ waiting list, lungs from smokers are better than none.

“I think people are grateful just to have a shot at getting lungs,” said Dr. Sharven Taghavi, a cardiovascular surgical resident at Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia, who led the new study...........................

Ive done the math here and this is how it works out with second ahnd smoke and people inhaling it!

The 16 cities study conducted by the U.S. DEPT OF ENERGY and later by Oakridge National laboratories discovered:

Cigarette smoke, bartenders annual exposure to smoke rises, at most, to the equivalent of 6 cigarettes/year.

146,000 CIGARETTES SMOKED IN 20 YEARS AT 1 PACK A DAY.

A bartender would have to work in second hand smoke for 2433 years to get an equivalent dose.

Then the average non-smoker in a ventilated restaurant for an hour would have to go back and forth each day for 119,000 years to get an equivalent 20 years of smoking a pack a day! Pretty well impossible ehh!

Kayla Stevens
Kayla Stevens

I don't think anyone should worry about owning a house or a car that someone has smoked inside. Third hand smoke can't do much harm unless you've been licking the walls or something. I have heard however that third hand smoke is harmful to infants if someone is holding them after smoking and it is also the reason health departments require anyone working with food to wash their hands after a smoke break.

Mps Siglos
Mps Siglos

People are scared of this smoke.  People should be more concerned after 25 years, Exxon oil spill, Mother EARTH is dying.  People continue driving, think of all the toxic due to driving.  Again, Mother EARTH  is dying, plants, animals.  So STOP propagating anti-smoking.


THINK OF MOTHER EARTH !!!!

Vicente D.
Vicente D.

Cigarette kills and that´s it! Thirdhand Legacy explains so many diseases!

Rob S
Rob S

 Reading these comments is really quite humorous. People get the weak idea in their heads that this halfwit article has planted in their heads and suddenly they can all remember a time when they felt short of breathe when they smelled the faint aroma of smoke, years after they quit smoking. I'm sure years of tobacco use had no affect on your lung capacity and their fragility.


Basically what this article is saying is that apartment buildings, like the one I live in, where people have been chain smoking for 40+ years should make you choke and die upon entry simply because of the many layers of "third hand" smoke which are apparently impossible to clean by current technology.


Essentially this is saying that unless the house you live in or car you drive is 100% brand new, you're at risk of "third hand" smoke exposure, which no one is even sure is dangerous or not. Ultimately, this article is pointless. If they don't know they affects and they don't know how much exposure is needed to harm a person, then what is the sense in creating hysteria?

Barb Stuart
Barb Stuart

I quit smoking 12 years ago, sometime at night I smell smoke and it takes the air out of my lungs and I can not breathe.  All the walls have been repainted, I have a new ceiling, new bedding, mattress.  There is nothing old in that room other that the furniture, yet I smell smoke.  I have to spray the room with Fabreze.

Phil Kadidlo
Phil Kadidlo

I don't think I still own any of the same music gear I used in smoky bars 25 years ago.

Martijn ter Haar
Martijn ter Haar

A lot of commenters here are absolutely sure that third hand smoke is not dangerous at all or a lot less dangerous than other pollutants, while the actual research on how dangerous THS is, still has to be done. So it's something they believe, not something they know. There's a good chance they are right, but at the same the research here is not some witch hunt. After all, we found out we quite severely underestimated the dangers of second hand smoke for years. And you can easily smell it if you enter a room that has accumulated a lot of THS, even if there hasn't been smoked for years, so you are clearly exposed to some chemicals.

Gerard Van der Leun
Gerard Van der Leun

This is just pure fanatical blather and spew. "Experts have precious few suggestions for ridding an indoor environment of thirdhand smoke. "Do a pretty thorough cleaning up with detergent. Some people suggest repainting the room," says Hang. "The best approach is to replace the carpets, clean up the ventilation system. All this could help"


Brink has to know what rank brain snot this is and yet she smears it around just the same.

Gerard Van der Leun
Gerard Van der Leun

"Buried in the article, however, is this:

Science hasn’t yet quantified the amount of exposure that poses a health risk, and hasn’t determined with certainty what those health risks might be.

In other words: we know almost nothing."-- nnc

rofi bungkeleukan
rofi bungkeleukan

ya, smoking is absolutely high risk, but cigarettes is a part of outdoor activity for me. so, just smoking when you're in jugle, its realy feels like in heaven.lol

any another solutions?

Nhoy Derla
Nhoy Derla

yes cigarette is very risky in our health......that is a good information to us

Jack Allan
Jack Allan

I remember when National Geographic was a magazine that published interesting articles about the world we live in accompanied by stunning photography. Sadly now it's akin to the Weekly World News.  

(btw, never smoked. Stupid is as stupid does.)

Charles Gilbert
Charles Gilbert

This article is rediculous, there are no facts or  proper references and I HAVE STOPPED MY SUBSCRIPTION.

A. Fleenor
A. Fleenor

Good information. Truth hurts if you are addicted to nicotine. Just saying'. Thankful I am not... If you want to smoke it is your right, but it is not your right to infringe on the health and rights of others who don't want to be exposed to harmful substances that can put their health at risk.

Pedro Guilhardi
Pedro Guilhardi

So, every house belonging or that has belonged to a smoker has a thirdhand smoke pollution potential.. but i wonder if this exam was also held on houses where no smoker has ever lived to verify if this carcinogenic compound is really from cigarette smoke only or if it has another source.

Alison Laurie
Alison Laurie

This is absolutely ridiculous.  It never ceases to amaze me how the attack on tobacco progresses.  But it still isn't illegal, is it?  Of course not.  It is a big money maker.  This just gives the obnoxious anti-smokers another reason to harrass smokers. (I quit in 2006)

Gary Robinette
Gary Robinette

I find it interesting that it took two people to take the picture they used. 


Beyond that, this is lightweight pap. I have to agree with those that are saying there are bigger issues that we need to deal with that are killing all of us, smokers or not. Polluted air, water and a food supply that is so full of unnatural chemicals are ingested by everyone and is a much bigger problem than residual chemicals from smokers. 

KENNETH LANE
KENNETH LANE

Odd that all the poisons puked out by US industries seem to actually be healthy for us----don't hear about the serious crap in our air.  Guess doctors just do not have the time to look into polution---or are they Rightwing Stooges?  I vote for the Stooge Factor.

James Kleatsch
James Kleatsch

Oh my god were does it end? there was a smoker in the room thirty years ago! your going to die! gas was spilled on the ground five years ago we are going to die! A big fat guy farted noxious fumes five hours ago we are going to die!. Well guess what folks! we are ALL going to die! get the hell over it already... nuff said.... idiots!

Carter Fox Jr.
Carter Fox Jr.

If cigarette smoke is so bad for folks, why is the gov't making so much money from sales? We breathe gasoline fumes, aircraft fumes, methane fumes, garbage, dead animals, and so on and so forth. Where is the study about the harmful effects of  breathing all this co2? Where is the study about breathing all these fracking chemicals? Where is the study into cleaner drinking water? I think scientists just use cigarettes to cover up the real culprit in this study. I wonder how many folks would die from smoking if they removed all the chemicals from cigarettes? Articles like this are proof that man and science are their own worst enemy. They call this a free country, but it ain't what most folks think it is. 

Justin Smith
Justin Smith

National Geographic has lost it's direction if this is the kind of insignificant minutia that it publishes.


I would suggest something more along the line of showing why San Francisco should pay to restore to its pristine state the Hetch Hetchy Valley.  

Gerard Van der Leun
Gerard Van der Leun

Susan, if you keep on writing lightweight tripe like this nobody will want to read anything you write in the future. Ever. Avoid becoming a cypher.

MJ C.
MJ C.

Gotta love the fact that now the government wants everyone to quit smoking (which I've done, btw) but before they were all for those tobacco companies adding all the addictiveness (evidently not a word, but you get my drift)  it could muster up. What a bunch of hypocrites.  

Andrew Booth
Andrew Booth

I don't smoke but I'm becoming rather tired by this continual attack on smoking. I'm astonished that the very people who vociferously attack tobacco seem to completely ignore alcohol. 

Here in the UK alcohol-related incidents take up approximately 80% of police time as well as 80% of Accident and Emergency admissions - and sometimes almost 100% of both! Millions of families live in poverty and misery as a result of alcohol and it's involved in almost all incidents of domestic violence. It also affects every organ of the body and causes the most dreadful diseases which cost the health system billions a year to treat. Alcohol is also responsible for most public violence, damage and assaults. The figures must be much the same in the US. 

The main difference between alcohol and tobacco is that smokers affect themselves - drinkers affect other people. How much police time and A&E time is taken up by tobacco-related incidents? How much domestic violence is caused by smoking or public violence or disorder? How many smokers stagger around and vomit in public? Answer - NONE!    

Yet alcohol is freely available on any supermarket shelf or store! Drinking in pubs and bars features frequently on TV, alcohol is advertised on TV and elsewhere in public and children are exposed to it every day! 

Come on NGS and others. If you are going to attack tobacco and smokers then at least include the far greater and far more dangerous substance of alcohol.

Matthew Leeds
Matthew Leeds

This article is absolutely useless information.  From a practical perspective, am I 0.0001% more likely to die if I sleep in a hotel room laced with past smoking, or am I 5% more likely to die from that exposure?  That is the sort of thing that really matters, and it is the sort of information that almost zero articles about smoking dangers ever provide.  I suspect it is far closer to the 0.0001% mark, and so you'll have to excuse me if I think that the article headline is idiotic and misleading.

Carol Thompson
Carol Thompson

Also, when the reporter from NPR asked, "Finding those chemicals is one thing, but what are the documented health effects?" that fraud Bo Hang lied that they were "well-studied" and changed the subject to PAHs and benzene!

Russell Famas
Russell Famas

@Mps Siglos  "Mother Earth" has, by herself, been the source of no less than *four* major extinction events within the scale of her geological lifespan. Sure, a meteor may have taken out the dinosaurs, but "Ol' Mom" has killed off more whole species than the number of humans who have ever lived. If she had the mind to, she could shake us off like fleas... All it'd take is one little supervolcano like Yellowstone and humanity's back in the stone age. She'll be here LONG after we've gone and killed ourselves off.

rofi bungkeleukan
rofi bungkeleukan

@Mps Siglos two thumbs up for you...smoking just a bit problem, and global warming is the biggest problem for all people...

Christopher John Williamson
Christopher John Williamson

@Carter Fox Jr. You have to remember that all these "fracking chemicals" aren't actually chemicals, but are natural compounds found in the earth which naturally leak eventually. It's only the boom in that industry that people have to suffer from excess leakage due to the over fracking of areas. But cigarettes are made with chemicals which are harmful to us, even animals. The government makes so much money due to the fact of it's extremely high revenue, simply look at it's sales and generated wealth and you will see why governments want a percentage. Also those extra chemicals in cigarettes are what help to make them smoke-able in the first place, without them people would die.  But you are right! We take in car, aeroplane emissions and so on everyday, why cant someone look into the obvious! Then you think about who owns the petrol industry and think why was the electric car killed and see that governments can't make money off electric cars, fuel tax is also a massive contributor to the funding of governments. In a way cigarettes are frowned upon and cars are glorified and this changes in different cultures, people are so hooked on cigarettes and cars this will never change and unfortunately second hand smokers will have to take it on the chin. Science can only go so far in that what they will get out of this research would be an obvious result. It's bad but we can't change. It's a sad fact!   

Kari Smith
Kari Smith

@Andrew Booth  your statement that smokers effect themselves and drinkers effect others is so far off base....i had a long reply for your post but then thought..either he is trying to be witty and joking and it isn't translating well in print, or he has extremely poor logic.  

Kari Smith
Kari Smith

@Matthew Leeds  it isn't all about whether you will die from it or not.  For people like me who have debilitating asthma it is good info.  My grandfather smoked for years and years inside, stopped smoking because i could not come to his house because of it, and even now, after he died, new everything in the house, i still have terrible asthma attacks.  if for no other reason than to inform people like me that even staying in a motel where people have smoked is likely to trigger an attack, the article is useful. Personally..i appreciate any info that might help me, even the smallest amount, to breathe easier.  Until you've had to breathe through an asthma attack this kind of article might not mean as much, but it certainly isn't idiotic.

Andrew Booth
Andrew Booth

@Kari Smith @Andrew Booth I don't see why Kari. As I said, how much police time is taken up by smokers? How much A&E time? How much domestic violence is caused by smokers? How many people are killed every year on the roads or in society by smokers? How much public violence is caused by smoking? Not to mention the ridiculous spectacle drinkers make when they can't even walk or talk properly and lose control of even their basic bodily functions. Does that ever happen to smokers?

Alcohol kills millions of innocent victims every year, it maims millions more and leaves millions living in fear and misery. Tobacco doesn't cause such carnage to other people.

 

Do you disagree? If so then please do post your reply. I do stand to be corrected if you'd like to point out where I'm being illogical.  

Matthew Leeds
Matthew Leeds

@Kari Smith @Matthew Leeds  Risk to people like you is not the focus of this article, unfortunately.  Had the author focused on situations like yours, my reaction would have been completely different.  My charge of idiotic still stands.

Christopher John Williamson
Christopher John Williamson

@Andrew Booth @Kari Smith I wouldn't say millions of lives! I wouldn't say drinking is not bad, but have you ever seen a drinker throw a drink out of a car and cause such intense fires? In Australia millions of dollars has been spent with smokers recklessly throwing cigarettes around where they please, resulting in lost houses and even communities because of a single smoke. Alcohol is both bad, but it's the individual who uses and abuses the product. Not drinkers as a whole. The only pollution alcohol brings is the stupid people that abuse it and bottles... cigarettes generally affect everyone around. Also why they have stopped smoking in doors in Australia. Also people who are born to a smoking parent often (and that's highly) develop hay fever or sinus allergies, that can still be affected up to 2 years after the adult has stopped smoking. Alcohol does cause violence but up to 80% of the police time taken up? is that in England? seems awfully high for such a developed country. I would hope it's less.

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