Indiana University Bloomington

Indiana Prevention Resource Center (IPRC)

Third-Hand Smoke?

"Third-Hand Smoke" is a new term coined by Jonathan Winickoff from the Center for Child and Adolescent Health Policy at Massachusetts General Hospital for the very real problem of toxic residue left by burned tobacco products on furniture, clothing, and other surfaces. Winickoff’s study, published in the journal Pediatrics used data from the annual Social Climate Survey of Tobacco Control (SCS-TC) survey which included questions asking both smokers and nonsmokers if they believed that secondhand or third-hand smoke harmed children.

Photo by Flickr user Vanessa Pike-Russell
 
Tobacco smoke residue includes such chemicals as ammonia, butane, lead, chromium, toluene, cadmium, and radioactive polonium-210. This smoking residue contaminates household furnishings and becomes part of the environment, where, as dust, it will be breathed or ingested by children and adults. 
 
The study found that those who strongly believed that third-hand smoke harmed children did not allow smoking in their homes. The authors suggest that warnings about the hazards of deposited toxins from smoking tobacco be incorporated into public health messages much as concerns about the dangers of second hand smoke have been reported for over twenty years.
 
Listen to an interview with Dr. Winickoff on National Public Radio:
 
http://www.sciencefriday.com/program/archives/200901091
 
Read an interview with Dr. Winickoff by Scientific American:
 
http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=what-is-third-hand-smoke
By Carole Nowicke,   4/14/2009