19 Apr A New Worry For Smokers’ Families: ‘Thirdhand Smoke’
By Carmen Heredia Roderiguez
Michael Miller, 44, does what most smokers do to protect his sons and daughter from the fumes of his Marlboro Ultra Lights. He takes it outside.
After his 7 a.m. coffee, he walks out of his home in Cincinnati to smoke his first cigarette of the day. Then, as a branch manager of a road safety construction company, he smokes dozens more on street curbs.
The tobacco never appears when Miller is coaching on the baseball or football field, or when he’s in the car with his children. But when he’s alone on the road, he sometimes rolls the windows down and lights up.
New findings highlight the scientific community’s efforts to identify potential dangers of another byproduct of cigarettes that may slip past Miller’s precautions and affect his kids: “thirdhand smoke.”“I know [cigarettes are] bad,” Miller said. “I know I need to quit.”
A recent study in the journal Tobacco Control found high levels of nicotine on the hands of children of smokers, raising concerns about thirdhand smoke, a name given to the nicotine and chemical residue left behind from cigarette and cigar smoke that can cling to skin, hair, clothes, rugs and walls. This thin film can be picked up by touch or released back into the air when disturbed.
The researchers examined 25 children who arrived at an emergency room with breathing problems associated with secondhand smoke exposure.
They discovered the average level of nicotine on the children’s hands was more than three times higher than the level of nicotine found on the hands of non-smoking adults who live with smokers. They said nicotine on the skin of a nonsmoker is a good proxy to measure exposure to thirdhand smoke.
“Because nicotine is specific to tobacco, its presence on children’s hands may serve as a proxy of tobacco smoke pollution in their immediate environment,” the researchers wrote.
They also found that all but one of the children had detectable levels in their saliva of cotinine, a biomarker for exposure to nicotine. All of the children in the study had parents who smoked but did not smoke themselves.
Read the rest of the story on Kaiser Health News.