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The Hidden Dangers of Third Hand Smoke

Smoking causes serious ill effects on the health for anyone exposed to it, which includes a variety of diseases that result in enormous amounts of suffering and can cause premature death. It may come as a surprising fact that the smoke that comes off a cigarette isn’t the only thing that can cause harm. Welcome to the world of third hand smoke!


It is Not Just You Affected by Smoking
If smoking only harmed the person doing it; at least as an adult, they have the right to harm themselves when no harm comes to others. The problem is that there is significant harm to others from smoking.

The Three Hands of Smoking
When anyone smokes a tobacco cigarette, a pipe, a cigar, or fires up a hookah filled with burning tobacco, they are actually smoking with three hands.

Smoking, except for the lighting process only uses one hand. OK, when you light up you use two hands, but where does third hand smoke come from? Here is the explanation, which may surprise you.

Firsthand Smoke *

Firsthand smoke arrives when something is burning and it forms two kinds of smoke. The first kind is mainstream smoke inhaled by the smoker. The second kind is sidestream smoke. Sidestream smoke comes from the burning tips of where the tobacco products are on fire. It is coming from the end of the cigarettes, the amber burning end of a cigar, the pipe bowl, and the charcoal heat that sets tobacco on fire in a hookah.

The problem with sidestream smoke is this type of smoke is very concentrated. It has a huge amount of cancer-causing chemicals in it and everyone in enclosed areas, where smoking is occurring, is inhaling copious amounts of it.

Smokers in a room full of smoke are inhaling mainstream smoke and sidestream smoke. This is only the first hand; there are two more hands at work.

Secondhand Smoke *

The value of individualism is a well-honored tradition in many of the advanced countries worldwide. The expression of the person and the choices made by adults are a valuable personal choice. There are logical limitations to these freedoms, because there is a caveat (an exception to the rule) that challenges adults only to engage in activities that they choose to do, which do not directly or indirectly cause harm to others.

Smokers who are puffing away are not only exposing themselves to carcinogens, they are also exposing anyone in the near vicinity. In homes, they expose their families and significant others. In vehicles, they expose passengers, including some children, who have no say in the matter.

The effect of secondhand smoke is well researched and it causes cancer. There is no doubt about this factor that is known from decades of research.

Secondhand smoke permeates buildings. It travels all over the entire interior spaces. It gets through cracks in the walls. It fills up elevator shafts and it passes throughout the entire building via the internal ventilation and air-conditioning systems.

Invisible Death

The American Cancer Society notes that 85% of the 7,000 toxic chemicals in cigarette smoke, of which 70 cause cancer, are invisible.

One of the most toxic poisons coming from smoking is carbon monoxide. It is odorless, colorless, tasteless, and invisible.

Smokers, the next time you light up, think about the carbon monoxide you are inhaling. Think about another poison in cigarette smoke called benzene. Imagine you are intentionally sitting behind a running automobile and trying to breathe in as much of the exhaust as possible. That is what you are doing. Over time, the ingestion of poison will take its toll.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, lifespan reduces by an average of 10 years if you are a smoker. Just imagine what is possible to do in ten years!

Moreover, those around you, including your significant others, your friends, your family, and your children will be harmed by what you are doing. This is only the second hand in the dangers of smoking. There is one more harmful hand.

Third Hand Smoke *

Is it possible that smoking is harmful for three times with third hand smoking?

What is third hand smoke? *

The official third hand smoke definition by the American Cancer Society is the residual, poisonous, toxic elements that remain on the surfaces in areas exposed to smoke.

Before you dismiss this as lunacy, think about asbestos. Asbestos had extensive use in the construction industry in America for decades. At first, people were not aware of the toxicity of asbestos. It took many years of research to understand why those exposed to asbestos developed asbestosis or Mesothelioma (a type of lung cancer).

WebMD Reports on the Characteristics of Asbestos Exposure
Asbestosis inflames the lungs, causing loss of breath and scarring that makes it impossible to breathe. Mesothelioma is a lung cancer that destroys the lining of the chest, invades the chest cavity, and attacks the abdomen. From this problem, there are also complications including, pleural plaques in the lungs and destruction of the membranes surrounding the lungs. These diseases of the lungs are so horrible; that it makes the person who has the disease feel like they are choking to death.

It turns out that any exposure to asbestos can create this disease. Once this discovery happened, the United States mobilized significantly and in a legal way to deal with the asbestos problem, yet still had many problems in removing asbestos in a safe way.

The reason this problem was so severe is that the removal process of the asbestos insulation makes tiny particulates in the air, which can easily be inhaled, similar to cigarette smoke. These particulates cause cancer and there is no level of tolerant safety for breathing in any of it, just like smoke.

Third Hand Smoke Dangers *

The toxic chemicals passed throughout areas exposed to smoking have landed on surfaces and to a greater or lesser degree have absorption by them, depending on the surface makeup.  Fabric and furniture are great absorbers. Marble and stone surfaces are less absorbent.

Any non-smoker, who comes into a room where a smoker has been previously, can immediately smell the contamination. Surprisingly, for the bad smells, which are offensive to non-smokers, there is much more damage done by the toxic chemicals that cannot be smelled.

Effects Of Third Hand Smoke *

The American Cancer Society is now investigating the need to do toxic cleanup for buildings that have residual third hand smoke effects.

One way to describe third hand smoke is that it is “insidious.” Just as the asbestos does not get less harmful if it has been in a building for a decade or lead is always a dangerous chemical deposit in lead-based paint; third hand smoke deposited on surfaces remains there in quantities that may cause harm and continue to cause harm for a very long time.

If smoking has over 7,000 chemicals and 70 are known to cause cancer, then eliminating them from our environment is job number one. It is not easy to do this, when considering the residual effects of third hand smoke.

One study showed the absorption of nicotine, which is the major additive chemical in tobacco products, was at dangerous levels from second hand and third hand smoke. Nicotine is an insecticide.

Does That Surprise You?
Nicotine is an insecticide, intentionally inhaled by those that smoke. How may insecticides are you willing to inhale intentionally? Think of it this way, how much rat poison would a mentally healthy person want to breathe in on a regular basis?

It seems complete lunacy to go to a store, buy a can of insecticide, ignore all the warning labels about how dangerous it is, and then spray it in the air and try to inhale the vapors. They are very toxic. Any rational person knows this. When a person buys a pack of cigarettes and smokes them, they are intentionally inhaling insecticide in a similar manner.

The chemical nicotine in tobacco is so dangerous and it creates enhanced levels of addiction. It is a very powerful insecticide. Nicotine kills some insects. It kills human beings also, just in a slightly slower way to be less noticeable, while it takes its ill effect over time.

Third Hand Smoke Facts *

The investigation of third hand smoke is just in its infancy. Everyone notices the almost permanent smell of stale cigarette smoke. This is why hospitality organizations, such as hotels, have non-smoking rooms and smoking rooms. No matter what sophisticated air fresheners are used or the air-cleaning systems, which are fully engaged, it is almost impossible to get rid of the odor of stale smoke out of a room previously used by smokers.

The main point is to notice the odors of the stale cigarette smoke in any room and be aware of the invisible, odorless, and toxic chemicals that also exist.

Micro Particles of Third Hand Smoke *

The reason why smoke is so pervasive and penetrates so many surfaces, is that the particulate size is very tiny.

The American Cancer Society notes that considerable research is underway to determine the dangers of third hand smoke. For scientific research to be conclusive, it needs to happen over decades and then each study is “peer-reviewed,” by other scientists to look for flaws and mistakes in the study or data collection methods.

Early warnings about risk to health of children from third hand smoke come from the Mayo Clinic. A report from National Geographic says that pollutants from smoke may last for up to twenty years and build up over time.

Tobacco Industry Research is Misleading *

It is well known now that tobacco companies knew the health risks of smoking well before these risks became public knowledge. Much of the supposed scientific research sponsored by tobacco companies was intentionally misleading. It was not until overwhelming evidence of the harm from smoking was irrefutable that tobacco companies capitulated to some the degree.

The Investigation of Third Hand Smoke *

The investigation of third hand smoke continues and may demonstrate the potential dangers of toxic residues from smoke exposure in enclosed environments. The bad stuff from smoking fills the air and is quite capable of going almost anywhere.

If an area has exposure to smoking for an extensive period, it is similar to a perpetual rain of toxic chemicals on all the surfaces in the room. Build up of these toxins over time is very logical and likely to increase the danger of being in those areas.

Nicotine as a Pesticide *

A study reported by the American Chemical Society noted that tobacco oil, which comes from heating up the tobacco leaves to make a concentrate that contains high levels of nicotine, is a very effective pesticide. This oil kills eleven fungi, four different bacteria strains, and the Colorado Potato Beetle. It is clearly poisonous.

When lighting up a cigarette the same process produces this tobacco oil and inhaling the smoke is just like inhaling a pesticide.

Third Hand Smoke and Babies *

The ACS cautions that even though the current research on third hand smoking does not conclusively warn of the dangers of third hand smoke, the risks still warrant extra caution in homes with infants and small children.

Researchers know that much smaller levels of toxins from third hand smoke are necessary to harm the development of a young child. Regarding third hand smoke and infants, the babies are even more susceptible to health risks. There are also potential risks associated with third hand smoke and pregnancy.

Summary *

Is third hand smoke dangerous? It would seem that the chances are very likely. It also depends on how much smoking was done in the area, how concentrated the smoking became, how absorbent the materials are in the area, and what remedial efforts happened to clean up the toxins.

There is a report from the American Cancer Society (ACS) about the current state of research on third hand smoke. The conclusion of the ACS is that the research, which is underway, is not yet definitive. Investigators are looking at the ability of residual deposits that land and stay on surfaces to cause a lingering cancer risk. The one certain thing is there needs to be more research to see how bad the problem really is.


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