The tobacco smoke contamination that remains after a cigarette has been put out has worried researchers for years. Now it has been given a name: third-hand smoke, and researchers are concerned over it. Smoking bans have been implemented throughout the world to help protect people from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke, which is a mixture of two forms of smoke: the smoke that is exhaled by a smoker (mainstream) and the smoke that comes from the end of a lighted cigarette (sidestream). Over 250 chemicals known to be toxic or carcinogenic are in secondhand smoke, but what happens when the cigarette is put out? Researchers are now studying the toxins left behind.
Third-hand smoke lingers in carpet, upholstery, clothing, on walls and surfaces hours or even days after a cigarette has been put out, and continues to be a health hazardous, especially for children. These invisible toxins build-up over time, layer upon layer. The build-up depends on the space; a small space, like a car, will have a higher deposits on its surface. Substances such as lead, cyanide, carbon monoxide and arsenic are released by the burning cigarette and, if smoked in the house, deposit themselves on furniture, flooring, and bedding, places where children are in constant contact. Eleven of the compounds are highly carcinogenic and are a cancer risk for anyone coming in contact with them.
If you smoke regularly inside your residence, try this experiment. Wet a white towel and wipe down a wall near where you have smoked. Notice the brownish-yellowish color? That’s tar and nicotine build-up that’s on your walls. Even when you aren’t smoking, you are still breathing in these toxins. Not only are your children breathing in these chemicals, every surface they touch is contaminated, including their toys. Toxins and chemicals on the toys will be ingested by your child, or even your pet, when placed in their mouth. No matter how well you clean, you cannot remove all evidence of third-hand smoke.
Smoking outside limits the residue contamination inside, but the third-hand smoke clings to your clothing and hair. Picking up and holding your child against you exposes your little one to those same toxins you are trying to keep away from them. Exposing them to the third-hand smoke on you increases their chance for colds, respiratory illnesses, and ear infections.
If you smoke, there is no better time to quit than the present. It is the greatest gift you can give to you and your family.