New research shows thirdhand smoke may have health risks. Elizabeth Keatinge (@elizkeatinge) has more.
You’re coughing. You’re waving it away. Not only does it smell bad, but you’re also worried it might give you cancer or other lung ailments.
It’s secondhand smoke, of course. You’re thinking to yourself, “I’m not silly enough to actually smoke cigarettes and I’m sure enough not going to fall victim to someone else’s.”
And so you walk away. Into another room in this smoker’s home. “Ah,” you think to yourself, “I’m away from all that toxicity.”
Except you are not. You are now entering the realm of thirdhand smoke.
Have you ever been in a hotel where the only rooms remaining are on a smoking floor? Doesn’t smell too good? That’s where thirdhand smoke lives. In the drapes. In the carpet. In the bedspread. In the ceiling tiles.
And, according to researchers, it can do you – and, more particularly, young children – harm. A study by scientists at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that newborn mice that lived in cages containing smoke-treated fabric for three weeks weighed significantly less than their counterparts in a control group. In addition, both newborn and adult mice exposed to thirdhand smoke experienced changes in blood cell counts associated with the immune system, leading to inflammatory and allergic reactions.
The research team believes the results of the mice experiment can apply to humans, too.
“We suspected that the young are most vulnerable because of their immature immune systems, but we didn’t have a lot of hard evidence to show that before,” said study lead author Bo Hang, a Berkeley Lab staff scientist who previously found that thirdhand smoke could lead to genetic mutations in human cells. “In this case, we found that thirdhand smoke appeared to inhibit weight gain in neonatal mice.”