The sensation of walking into a hotel room where the previous guests were smokers or sniffing the lingering odor on a smoker’s clothes or hair are evidence of what’s known as ” third-hand” smoke.
It’s been long known that second-hand smoke causes health problems, but could third-hand smoke be making you ill?
Third-hand smoke is tobacco residue that builds up over time on surfaces long after lingering second-hand smoke disappears.
Research on the effects of third-hand smoke is still fairly new, but a recent study analyzed how nicotine interacts with common indoor surfaces such as cotton or wood. Scientists found nicotine residues can become airborne again.
Paul Lyons, a professor of Family and Community Medicine Temple University School of Medicine, said kids are at additional risk. “Children who have asthma for instance are very sensitive to that and that may be enough to irritate their lungs,” he said.
Lyons said smoking outside isn’t enough. It’s impossible to get rid of smoke altogether. “I think there should be a lot more education around this issue of smoking outside the house or smoking outside workplaces with the expectation that when you come back in you’re not bringing any of that with you,” he said.
The study published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology also suggests that nicotine interacts with indoor air and forms potentially toxic pollutants on these surfaces.