Open Accessibility Menu

3rd-Hand Smoke

If you need another reason to quit smoking, consider how poisons clinging to fabric or hair may be risking your children’s health.

A recent study by researchers at MassGeneral Hospital for Children describes the dangers of tobacco smoke that linger even after a cigarette is extinguished. Dubbed “third-hand smoke,” the residual smoke can remain on walls or in furniture for hours, days or months, according to the study.

Scientists caution that research needs to be confirmed by additional studies, but preliminary reports suggest that up to 90 percent of nicotine in cigarette smoke sticks to nearby surfaces.

The toxins can be particularly harmful to small children who can be exposed by crawling or touching contaminated surfaces and even hugging their parents who smoke. For those who are breastfed, the toxins may be transferred in the mother’s breast milk.

Increasing awareness of the consequences of smoking is important. Researchers surveyed more than 1,500 households, asking smokers and non-smokers about their attitudes. Only 65 percent of non-smokers and 43 percent of smokers believed that third-hand smoke was harmful to children.

The particles and gases given off by cigarettes pose potential hazards for infants who are still developing their lungs. Though we are still learning about third-hand smoke, we must do everything possible to eliminate risks and protect those who are vulnerable.

For more information about third-hand smoke, ask your health care provider or contact North Oaks Pulmonology at (985) 230-1580. North Oaks Pulmonology specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases and disorders of the lungs and respiratory system, such as asthma, emphysema, bronchitis and pneumonia. Clinic hours of operation are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays.