Everyone knows that smoking is hazardous to “your” health. And most people know that the second-hand smoke that is emitted in the air by a smoker’s lit cigarette and their exhalations of smoke has been shown to cause asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, lung cancer and other serious long-term diseases to the people around the smoker who are exposed to it. But did you know there is such a thing as third-hand smoke? Well there IS!
Third-hand smoke residue is dangerous to everyone and can cause serious health problems, but even worse it’s particularly dangerous to babies and developing children. Third-hand smoke is the residue that is left behind from cigarette smoke. This residue clings to almost every surface it comes in contact with and that includes your hair and skin (especially your fingers and hands).
Most people who still smoke will do so outside of their cars, homes, workplaces, restaurants, etc. away from non-smokers and children in an effort not to endanger others from their addiction to cigarettes.
But with the realization of the dangers of third-hand smoke to others the reality sets in that no matter where you are smoking you are putting others health at risk, especially children. But the fact that children are at an even greater risk is what is most disturbing about this new danger and will likely impress upon smokers the urgency to quit smoking, particularly if they have or are around children.
Smokers carry the third-hand smoke residue on their skin, hair, clothing, shoes, socks, cell phones, purses, sun/glasses, even your keys. Basically, anything and everything that’s exposed to the smoke residue will retain it and that includes you. In their studies of third-hand smoke residue, researchers determined that when the smoke residue was mixed with other contaminates in the environment like car exhaust fumes, it then produced known cancer-causing gasses that have been found to cause developmental delays in children.
Children are especially at risk to third-hand residue because they are still developing and are more apt to put their residue tainted hands and fingers near their eyes and in their mouth and nose. So far researchers were unable to determine if third-hand smoke causes cancer in people or how much exposure to third-hand residue is dangerous to humans. It’s much like the fact that non-smokers can develop lung cancer, but don’t know if the cancer was caused by exposure to second-hand smoke, or was the result of other factors not pertaining to smoking. It may be some time in the distant future before we have scientific proof of the negative effects of third-hand residue.
What We Do Know
Studies that were conducted on rats indicated that exposure to tobacco toxins was the primary cause of sudden infant syndrome (SIDS). It is believed to be caused by respiratory suppression. There are 250 poisonous toxins contained in cigarette smoke, some of the most dangerous being lead (associated with diminished IQ), cyanide (used to make chemical weapons) which blocks the release of oxygen to body tissues, and arsenic which is a poison used to euthanize mammals.
The brain of infants and developing children are more susceptible to these toxins because of the unique ways they are exposed to them and the fact they receive them in higher doses because of those means of exposure. A good example to compare would be that children ingest twice as much dust as adults do; this is caused by the child’s body weight compared to the adult’s, higher respirations, and their closer proximity to the dust (crawling, playing on the floor and/or carpet). Based just on the above-stated comparison, a child would receive 20 times as much toxic exposure as an adult, so it’s easy to understand why children are at such a great risk.
If you’re a smoker it’s important to understand what this all means at the end of the day and that is, there is no safe place to smoke. If you want to completely keep your child from the dangers of third-hand smoke quit smoking now.