Friday, July 18, 2014
What's third-hand smoke? Researchers say it's far more dangerous than we ever realized.
Have you ever walked out of a building and smelled smoke even after the smoker has moved on? Or maybe caught a whiff on someone's clothes long after their cigarette has been extinguished? That's what scientists have termed - third hand smoke, and its effects may have been greatly underestimated.
Research led by the University of York has highlighted the potential cancer risk in non-smokers – particularly young children – of tobacco smoke gases and particles deposited to surfaces and in household dust.
Until now, the risks of this kind of exposure have not been well studied or considered in public policy.
However, a new study published in the journal Environment International, has estimated for the first time the potential cancer risk by age group through non-dietary ingestion and skin exposure to third hand smoke. The results indicate potentially severe, long-term consequences, particularly to children.
The research was carried out by York’s Wolfson Atmospheric Chemistry Laboratories, the National Centre for Atmospheric Science, and the Chromatography and Environmental Applications research group at the Universitat Rovira i Virgili, Spain.
The study demonstrates for the first time the widespread presence of tobacco related carcinogens in house dust, even in ‘smoke-free’ environments.
Scientists collected dust samples from private homes occupied by both smokers and non-smokers. Using observations of house dust composition, they estimated the cancer risk by applying the most recent official toxicology information.
They found that for children aged one to six years old, the cancer risks exceeded the limit recommended by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in three quarters of smokers’ homes and two thirds of non-smokers’ homes. The maximum risk predicted from the third hand smoke levels in a smoker occupied home equated to one extra cancer case per one thousand population exposed.
Lead investigator, Dr Jacqueline Hamilton, from York’s Wolfson Atmospheric Chemistry Laboratories, said: “The risks of tobacco exposure do not end when a cigarette is extinguished. Non-smokers, especially children, are also at risk through contact with surfaces and dust contaminated with residual smoke gases and particles, the so-called third hand smoke. This risk should not be overlooked and its impact should be included in future educational programs and tobacco-related public health policies.”
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