You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.


  • ePAPER

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and interactive features. Starting at just 99c for 8 weeks.


Welcome to

Your source for Clark and Champaign counties’ hometown news. All readers have free access to a limited number of stories every month.

If you are a News-Sun subscriber, please take a moment to login for unlimited access.

Everything you need to know about third-hand smoke

We know that smoking is harmful to our health. We also know that secondhand smoke is just as bad. But have you ever heard of third-hand smoke? You may be affected by it and not even know it.

We asked Tammy Taylor, DO, a pediatrician with the Pediatric Group in Troy, to help explain exactly what third-hand smoke is, why it’s dangerous, and what you can do to protect yourself and your family.

What is third-hand smoke?

“Third-hand smoke is a term used to describe exposure to cigarette smoke in a house, car, on clothing, on hair or other objects that lingers after someone has smoked, even days later,” said Dr. Taylor.

Why is it so dangerous?

A new study released this month by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that third-hand smoke might be even more dangerous than second-hand smoke. Although it contains less chemicals or tobacco by-products than second-hand smoke, the few that third-hand smoke does contain often react with common household air pollutants such as ozone and nitrous acid. The resulting particles are not only incredibly damaging to cells, but are also so tiny, they can enter the human body with minimal difficulty by being ingested, inhaled or literally passed through human tissue, including the skin.

“Third-hand smoke leaves behind gases and residue that contain chemicals such as hydrogen cyanide, carbon monoxide, butane, arsenic and even radioactive substances such as polonium-210,” explained Dr. Taylor. “Many of these substances and more are carcinogenic, meaning cancer causing.”

Another reason that third-hand smoke is so dangerous is that it is nearly impossible to eliminate. According to the Berkeley study, most smokers try to get rid of the cigarette smell by opening windows, vacuuming, dusting, washing linens and spraying tons of air freshener. Unfortunately, getting rid of the smell doesn’t mean the threat is gone. None of the aforementioned methods of “cleaning” do much to truly eliminate the nicotine residue that, according to scientists, can last as long as two months after the last smoke.

“Tobacco-specific nitrosamines, some of the chemical compounds in third-hand smoke, are among the most potent carcinogens there are. They stay on surfaces, and when those surfaces are clothing or carpets, the danger to children is especially serious,” study researcher, Lara Gundel, a scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, said in a statement.

Dr. Taylor agrees. “Risks of exposure (to third-hand smoke) to infants and children include respiratory problems, such as asthma or wheezing, and increased upper respiratory infections and ear infections. Many things can trigger asthma or wheezing, such as weather change, allergies, colds, but the one thing that parents can control that can trigger this, is exposure to second-hand or third-hand smoke.”

What can you do to protect yourself and your family from third-hand smoke?

The Berkeley study found that the intensity of the third-hand smoke doesn’t matter as much as how often you’re exposed to it — the harm it can cause gets worse over time. So, if you’ve moved into a home that was occupied by a smoker, doing things like replacing carpet and repainting walls as quickly as possible is key.

“We advise our patients’ family members who smoke and are unable to stop, to smoke outside away from the kids, and to wear a ‘smoking jacket or shirt,’ that can then be removed before coming back in, to have long hair pulled back, and to wash their hands when they are finished,” said Dr. Taylor. “This all can help to cut down on the gases and particles in the cigarette smoke that cling to the person after smoking.”

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Health

Gmail phishing scam may lead users to give up login info
Gmail phishing scam may lead users to give up login info

A new phishing scam is allowing hackers to gain access to unsuspecting Gmail users' accounts and target their login credentials, according to recent reports. Mark Maunder, CEO of security service Wordfence, described the scam in detail in a blog post, adding that it is also targeting other services beyond Gmail. Tech Times reported that the scam involves...
Tuna, star of the Amazing Acro-Cats, dies of cancer
Tuna, star of the Amazing Acro-Cats, dies of cancer

The cowbell won't sound quite the same now that Tuna, the star of the Amazing Acro-Cats cat circus, has died.Happy Cats Haven posted the news Friday on its Facebook page: "To all our fans of Tuna and The Rock Cats and the Amazing Acro-Cats, it's with many tears that we let you know that Samantha Martin's star kitty Tuna crossed the Rainbow Bridge...
7 small changes that will have a big impact
7 small changes that will have a big impact

It’s only a few weeks into 2017, but you’ve already come to an uncomfortable and familiar realization. New Year’s resolutions result in more guilt and depression than achievement. Forget about the big aspirations for a transformational do-over. They don’t work. How about making some small changes today that eventually can have...
Let’s have a cheer for the Amherst Hamsters
Let’s have a cheer for the Amherst Hamsters

Amherst, a tiny college of 1,795 really smart scholars in Massachusetts, made news last year when the board of trustees voted to drop Lord Jeffs as its athletic teams’ unofficial mascot. Lord Jeffery Amherst, historians discovered, was not necessarily a nice person. The 18th century British general reportedly once suggested giving smallpox-infested...
Stark numbers show heroin’s local grip
Stark numbers show heroin’s local grip

An average of seven Montgomery County residents a day were treated for drug overdoses by emergency departments in 2016, and one person alone made eight trips to the ER. Eleven people were treated twice in the same day for overdoses. The stark figures — amassed largely due to a devastating heroin epidemic — are found in a new Public Health...
More Stories