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Toxic Third-Hand Smoke Remain In Houses Even After Smokers Have Quit

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Homes where smokers live remain polluted with tobacco smoke for a long time, as much as six months after the smoker has quit or left, posing a continuous threat to others who are still living in the house.

The report from Tobacco Control discovered that tiny particles from burning tobacco can enter many surfaces, from carpets to wallpaper, and linger for a long time, the New York Times reports.

Researchers examined 65 smokers who were quitting over a period of six months. They measured levels of third-hand smoke – nicotine and other compounds found in tobacco on household surfaces, in dust and in urine of nonsmokers living in the same house.

Third-hand smoke generally refers to residual nicotine and other chemicals left on indoor surfaces produced by tobacco smoke, which reacts with common indoor pollutants to create a toxic combination. This mix contains substances that can cause cancer and other diseases, posing a risk to nonsmokers, especially children.

At the end of the study period, they found that there were short-term reductions in nicotine on surfaces and dust, which levelled off and remained steady but still noticeable. When the researchers measured the urine of nonsmokers after six months, the samples still contained nicotine.

George E. Matt, lead author and professor of psychology at San Diego State University, states, “We tend to see smoke in the air and then it’s out of sight, out of mind. But it leaves compounds in indoor environments that can do harm to our bodies, especially children, and sometimes we cannot see or smell it. No level of exposure to tobacco is safe.”

The study concludes by saying that residents in homes are still at risk for third-hand smoke for a long time after smokers have quit. Further studies are necessary to better understand the effects of such exposure, and shed some light on the best way to remove third-hand smoke from homes.


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