November is Tobacco Awareness Month, making it the perfect time to learn about the dangers of firsthand smoke and secondhand smoke’s secret younger brother, thirdhand smoke. Thirdhand smoke refers to the residual contamination from tobacco smoke that lingers long after the smoking stops. While the smell of lingering tobacco may seem harmless enough, it is really an indication of the presence of dangerous toxins.
Why Is Thirdhand Smoke So Dangerous?
It may seem that as long as the tobacco-filled culprit isn’t in the room, you wouldn’t be in any danger. Research has already shown that smoking is the leading cause of preventable death, with obesity following as the second leading cause. However, researchers believe that tobacco’s lingering chemicals, including nicotine, can be just as harmful as firsthand and secondhand smoke are.
According to pulmonologist Humberto Choi, MD, there has been an increase in lung cancer cases not directly related to firsthand or secondhand smoking. Researchers are looking into other possible causes and thirdhand smoke is at the top of their list. One study has found that exposure to thirdhand smoke may lead to damage and breaks in human DNA. Dr. Choi says that DNA damage can increase a person’s chances of disease.
How Can I Protect My Family From Thirdhand Smoke?
While it is fairly easy to keep yourself and your children away from secondhand smoke by avoiding smokers and smoking areas, thirdhand smoke is much more difficult because it is practically invisible. Thirdhand smoke tends to stick to carpets, walls, curtains, clothes, hair, car interiors, and any other fabric in the room. This makes children most susceptible to the toxins of thirdhand smoke, as they tend to spend more time on the floor and touching these surfaces and then their mouths and noses.
Even deep cleaning won’t do much to get out the toxins that have sunk into the surfaces of your home or car. The only sure way to get rid of thirdhand smoke is to remove the contaminated fabrics and replace them. For a room that was often smoked in, you may need to scrape off the old paint and start a new coat from scratch.
Thirdhand smoke toxins are also absorbed into dust particles. These particles and other air pollutants are then pulled into your home’s HVAC system and re-circulated five to seven times per day. The particles build up in the ductwork and cause long-term harm to your health. To rid this space of thirdhand smoke, you would need a thorough cleaning of your ducts and HVAC system.
Being aware of the harmful effects of thirdhand smoke is the first step to fighting against it. If you think or know that your home was previously a smoker’s paradise, consider the ways that thirdhand smoke may still be lingering and start the work to rid your home of those toxins.