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How to Protect Babies, Children and Yourself from Third-Hand Smoke

Date Posted: July 5, 2011

Dangers of 3rd Hand SmokeMost people are aware of their dangers of second-hand smoke.  However, few people are aware that the nicotine and other chemicals in cigarette smoke can adhere to almost everything from clothing and walls to hair.

Second-hand smoke is defined as cigarette, cigar, or pipe smoke that is inhaled unintentionally by non-smokers and may be injurious to their health if inhaled regularly over a long period, also called passive smoke. Third-hand smoke is the term used to describe the invisible yet toxic brew of gases and particles clinging to smokers’ hair and clothing, not to mention fabrics and carpeting, which lingers long after the smoke has cleared the room. The residue includes heavy metals, carcinogens and even radioactive materials that young children can get on their hands and ingest, especially if they’re crawling or playing on the floor.

Some of the dangerous substances in third-hand smoke include hydrogen cyanide, butane, toluene (found in paint thinner), arsenic, lead and carbon monoxide.

Dr. Philip Landrigan, a pediatrician who heads the Children’s Environmental Health Center at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, urged people to understand the danger of third-hand smoke.

“The central message here is that simply closing the kitchen door to take a smoke is not protecting the kids from the effects of that smoke,” he said. “There are carcinogens in this third-hand smoke, and they are a cancer risk for anybody of any age who comes into contact with them.”

You can take steps to reduce third-hand smoke exposure:

  • Don’t smoke indoors. Should you or your guests who wish to smoke, simply step outside.
  • Don’t smoke inside vehicles. If your passenger of yourself feels the need to smoke, simply stop for a smoke break on the side of the road (whenever possible), rest area or public parking lot.
  • Choose smoke-free care facilities
  • Favor establishments with strict non-smoking policies. This will greatly reduce your third-hand smoke exposure.
  • Help promote or enforce non-smoking policies in your workplace.

To reduce and ultimately eliminate exposure to third-hand smoke, the only real solution is to make both your home and vehicle 100% smoke-free.

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