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Thirdhand smoke can threaten consumers' health in non-smoking environments

Researchers say chemicals left behind by smoke can be dangerous

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Photo (c) Tas3 - Getty Images
While recent studies have found how dangerous thirdhand smoke can be for children, a new study has found that the chemicals that come from thirdhand smoke can be risky for all consumers’ health. 

According to researchers from Yale University, smokers can leave behind traces of cigarette smoke in closed, non-smoking environments. The chemicals then get stuck in the air or on furniture, affecting those who enter the space later on.

“In real-world conditions, we see concentrated emissions of hazardous gases coming from groups of people who were previously exposed to tobacco smoke as they enter a non-smoking location with strict regulations against indoor smoking,” said researcher Drew Gentner. 

“People are substantial carriers of thirdhand smoke contaminants to other environments. So, the idea that someone is protected from the potential health effects of cigarette smoke because they’re not directly exposed to secondhand smoke is not the case.” 

Tracking exposure to smoke

To better understand how smokers can affect the health of non-smokers in indoor environments, the researchers studied the particles found inside of a movie theater over the course of one week. 

Though it’s prohibited to smoke inside movie theaters, the researchers found that consumers were at risk of chemical exposure because of thirdhand smoke, regardless of their own smoking status. 

“Despite regulations preventing people from smoking indoors, near entryways, and near air intakes, hazardous chemicals from cigarette smoke are still making their way indoors,” said researcher Roger Sheu. 

Nicotine was the most prominent chemical left behind by smokers, but the researchers found that the remains of all chemicals were significant. This is problematic because chemicals are trapped in the theater and cling to surfaces that other theatergoers come into contact with. 

The study revealed that the thirdhand emissions in the movie theater were equivalent to one hour of exposure of up to 10 cigarettes. 

These results are concerning because consumers can be exposed to these toxins regardless of whether or not they or someone they live with smokes. This is particularly risky for children, who are typically at the highest risk. 

The researchers explained that avoiding public spaces likely won’t eliminate the risk, but gravitating towards areas with proper ventilation can be beneficial. 

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