A study led by researchers from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has found for the first time that thirdhand smoke—the noxious residue that clings to virtually all surfaces long after the secondhand smoke from a cigarette has cleared out—causes significant genetic damage in human cells.
Furthermore, the study also found that chronic exposure is worse than acute exposure, with the chemical compounds in samples exposed to chronic thirdhand smoke existing in higher concentrations and causing more DNA damage than samples exposed to acute thirdhand smoke, suggesting that the residue becomes more harmful over time.
“This is the very first study to find that thirdhand smoke is mutagenic,” said Lara Gundel, a Berkeley Lab scientist and co-author of the study. “Tobacco-specific nitrosamines, some of the chemical compounds in thirdhand 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…”
Thirdhand smoke is particularly insidious because it is extremely difficult to eradicate. Studies have found that it can still be detected in dust and surfaces of apartments more than two months after smokers moved out. Common cleaning methods such as vacuuming, wiping and ventilation have not proven effective in lowering nicotine contamination. “You can do some things to reduce the odors, but it’s very difficult to really clean it completely,” said Destaillats. “The best solution is to substitute materials, such as change the carpet, repaint.”
Now the new study suggests thirdhand smoke could become more harmful over time…The researchers found that the concentrations of more than half of the compounds studied were higher in the chronic samples than in the acute. They also found higher levels of DNA damage caused by the chronic samples…
Great. The more we learn about cigarette smoking the more we learn about how deadly the smoke and its residue is. I expect we’ll eventually learn that many modern diseases might be traceable back to generations of cigarette smoke clinging to the household infrastructure of modern life – and how it affected DNA.
A society which does comparatively little to end this national habit is measured by stupidity more so than ignorance.