Third-hand smoke, a risk not at first sight
The description of new toxic products derived from tobacco smoke reveals an unknown threat for health
Although a smoker and the smoke of his cigarettes have already left the room you have just entered, your health is still menaced by third-hand smoke.
The risks of first-hand smoke (inhaled by smokers) and second-hand smoke (inhaled by passive smokers) have been known for a long time. Society in general and smokers in particular have grown more and more aware of their harmful effects. For instance, in their own households, smokers and non-smokers alike generally protect their children from direct exposure to smoke.
However, third-hand smoke does not seem to cause the same concern. It is possible that this is due to the fact that it cannot be seen, as opposed to the cases previously mentioned. In spite of this, it can even be more dangerous: apart from being inhaled, the chemicals that form third-hand smoke can be ingested or absorbed through skin.
The expression ‘third-hand smoke’ was first used by researchers at Harvard University in 2009. They coined the term to refer to the wide range of products that remain in the environment once tobacco smoke has disappeared. In a study published recently, the concept was further extended. Research led by members of Berkeley University proved that nicotine—which easily adheres to multiple surfaces—reacts with nitrous acid present in the air, thus generating nitrosamines.
Some nitrosamines are present in tobacco smoke itself, but researchers have demonstrated that exposure to nitrous acid causes a 10-fold increase in their concentration. Just like many of the other chemicals that form cigarette smoke, nitrosamines are carcinogenic, but their effect has not been quantified yet.
These compounds cling to hair and clothes, cushions, carpets… Therefore children, who may crawl over surfaces where these products settle, are most exposed to the risks associated with third-hand smoke. The only safe way to avoid hazards due to third-hand smoke is quitting smoking, as ventilation is not an effective method to get rid of its toxic products.
Apart from actions undertaken individually, reducing the citizens’ exposure to tobacco is a major concern for governments too. After Ireland first applied a smoking ban in 2004, several countries followed suit to different extents. These recent findings may provide a new argument for the application of stronger anti-smoking regulations in public areas.
Benvolguts lectors, si us plau disculpeu-me el retard en actualitzar. Les dues darreres han estat unes setmanes mogudetes. En bona part, la causa ha estat aquest text. Si m’ho permeteu, us el deixo en anglès…
Tenint en compte que a Andorra estem en plena recollida de signatures per a impulsar una llei anti-tabac als espais públics (aquí teniu la causa al Facebook) he pensat que l’article ens podia portar tots a reflexionar una mica més sobre els perills no tan evidents del fum del tabac: el “fum de tercera mà”.
Perquè us en feu una idea, podeu consultar a la Wiki quina és la legislació actual pel que fa al tabac a diversos països. També hi trobareu la llegenda del mapa següent:
Si us interessa el tema, digueu-ho als comentaris i us puc passar alguns enllaços interessants amb més informació. I ja que parlem de comentaris: Com veieu la qüestió de la legislació anti-tabac? Esteu d’acord amb la iniciativa andorrana? I amb l’enduriment de la llei a Espanya, que pel meu gust està trigant massa?