Most people know about the dangers of smoking very well. Illnesses like heart disease, stroke and lung cancer may develop on inhaling nicotine and other toxic chemicals in cigarette smoke, either firsthand as a smoker or secondhand as a non-smoker. There is another term known as third-hand smoke, about the effect of which a lot of people don’t know. The potentially cancer-causing compounds that form when tobacco smoke particles mix with gases in the air, absorbing into nearby surfaces such as carpets, rugs, clothes, bed sheets, wall paint, car dashboards and toys, fall under this term. After a burning cigarette is extinguished, the residue from tobacco smoke may remain in these materials for years. Cancer specialists in Howrah inform general people about this.

A Detailed Description

When particles from a cigarette or other tobacco-burning device seep into materials like hair, clothes, furniture, carpet and walls and are absorbed, there is the formation of third-hand smoke. The chemical structure of these particles undergoes a change as the chemicals then undergo an ageing process. Indoor air pollutants like nitrous acid combine with nicotine and form carcinogens (compounds that cause cancer). Into the air, the gas is then continuously emitted back. “Off-gassing” is the name of this process.

Opening windows, using a fan or other efforts to diffuse the smoke don’t prevent third-hand smoke from forming or keep it from being inhaled and the residue may give off harmful chemicals for years or even decades. These pollutants cannot be cleaned by normal cleaning methods. The only options in most of the cases are replacing carpets or repainting walls.

Third-hand smoke has been a research topic for decades although the common people came to hear about this term since the past few years. You perhaps heard this term from a cancer doctor in Kolkata. When a scientist from the Washington University School of Medicine in ST. Louis found in 1953 that tobacco smoke condensate or liquid from gas condensation caused cancer when painted on mice, third-hand smoke was first discovered. In the dust of the home of smokers, researchers found nicotine in a 1991 study. It was found that nicotine was still present in homes where smokers tried to limit exposure, such as smoking outdoors, in a later study conducted in 2004. When the vehicles of non-smokers were compared to the cars of smokers in a 2008 study, it has been found that there was tobacco residue on the dashboards of cars driven by smokers who banned smoking in their vehicles. When the term ‘third-hand smoke’ was used in a 2009 paper published in Pediatrics, it became widely known.