A recent study has revealed some startling information for parents of young children. Thirdhand smoke can be just as dangerous to children as secondhand smoke. Most people are familiar with the term secondhand smoke, which refers to smoke from a cigarette that is exhaled by smokers and then inhaled by others around them. Numerous studies have shown that secondhand smoke plays a significant role in the development of human disease. However, not many people are familiar with thirdhand smoke. What is thirdhand smoke? Why is it so dangerous for children?
What is Thirdhand Smoke?
If you’ve ever experienced walking into a room and smelling the aroma of a cigarette having been smoked there earlier, you have been exposed to thirdhand smoke. When a person exhales cigarette smoke, they also exhale dangerous toxins. Studies have shown that there are over 250 toxins contained in cigarette smoke including lead, arsenic and cyanide.
After it is exhaled, smoked settles onto the smoker’s hair and clothing as well as their surroundings. As the cigarette smoke settles, objects become coated with the chemicals and toxins present in the tobacco. These cigarette byproducts do not immediately dissipate as once believed. Even though you can’t see them, they are still there on your sofa, carpet and draperies. These toxins build up over time in certain rooms and automobile interiors as more and more cigarettes are smoked there.
Toxic Residue Forms Carcinogens That Harm Children
So what, you may be thinking. Can’t the residue from cigarette smoke be cleaned up? Kids aren’t breathing it in, so it’s not still dangerous right? The nicotine and other toxic chemicals that settle onto furniture, the carpet and the smoker’s clothing still pose a serious danger to children. When disturbed, these deposits can react with a chemical in the air, ambient nitrous acid, to form carcinogens. Carcinogens are compounds that have been linked to cancer. The biggest source of ambient nitrous acid is unvented gas appliances.
Why is Thirdhand Smoke So Dangerous for Children?
Unlike adults, children’s brains are still growing and developing. That makes them especially susceptible to the influences of toxins. In fact, it takes a relatively low level of toxins to begin to affect a child’s developing brain. Children touch, crawl on and play near tobacco contaminated surfaces. Small children frequently put their hands and fingers into their mouths after touching these surfaces. Infants and young children also have a faster respiration rate which means they breathe in more toxic thirdhand smoke than does an adult. Recent studies have shown that rats exposed to thirdhand smoke had a higher incidence of dying from SIDS. SIDS is a serious concern for infants, causing approximately 2,500 deaths per year.
How to Protect Children from Thirdhand Smoke
Many parents believe that they can smoke responsibly by opening a window or smoking outside away from their children. That is not the case. According to the Surgeon General, there is no safe level of tobacco exposure. Smoking outside doesn’t work because the smoker themselves becomes contaminated with harmful thirdhand smoke. A vented window only removes approximately 20 percent of cigarette smoke from a room or vehicle. The only way to effectively protect a child from thirdhand smoke is to never have them around someone who is smoking, has smoked or bring them into a room or car where smoking has taken place.