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What you Need to Know about Third-Hand Smoke

smoke-258970_640The dangers of passive smoking have been well researched and understood for some time now. Inhaling carcinogenic smoke that has been exhaled from a smoker’s lungs has been proven to have serious long-term health consequences, especially for children. Due to this, we do not spare a second thought to protecting our youngest and most vulnerable members of society from its dangers, and quite rightly so.

Now a new danger from passive smoking has emerged. Scientists are labeling it “Third-Hand Smoke”. Third-hand smoke (THS) is a toxic residue that is left behind by cigarette smoke. It will attach itself to any surface cigarette smoke touches. Surfaces like a child’s toys or their toothbrush for example.

To make matters worse, once THS is present on a surface it remains there for an awfully long time (several weeks). Third-hand smoke is largely unknown to many people and is particularly dangerous for young children.

The main danger from THS is via ingestion. It has been shown to contain at least 12 carcinogenic chemicals. We keep most of our food in sealed containers and most adults do not spend their day putting random household objects in their mouth. Due to this, the amount of damage it can do to adults is limited. (Although THS does attach itself to dust particulate, which can be inhaled by anyone of any age.)

However, any parent will be able to tell you that one of the main ways a young child learns about their new world is by tasting and sucking anything it can get its hands on. Think about how often this happens. Every time you have seen your child suck on a toy or lick a random object. If the house has been smoked in – the child will be ingesting carcinogenic chemicals every time they do this.

Most parents that are smokers will not smoke in the home when a child is present. Or they will at least try to smoke in a separate room, perhaps with the window open or with a fan turned on. Unfortunately, this is not good enough to stop the spread of THS.  Studies have been conducted and they show that the only way to stop THS from spreading around a home is by smoking outside, far away from doors and windows. Any of the main methods people try to limit the spread of smoke around a home are simply ineffective.

However, even smoking outside is not enough to totally reduce a child’s exposure to THS. It clings on to hair and skin and clothing, ensuring it comes into contact with a smoker’s child eventually. Especially for babies who spend time laying on and snuggling with their caregiver.

The best thing any smoking parent or caregiver can do to totally reduce the amount of THS exposure their child receives is to quit smoking. Until that happens, please protect your child, and never smoke inside the home.

Perhaps now is good time to think about quitting after all?

References and suggested links for more information

Submitted by Belle Abernathy of quitza.com. Belle Abernathy is a 30 a day ex smoker and mother of two. She is a tobacco control advocate attempting to reduce the harm it does to children. When not fighting to end the global tobacco epidemic she enjoys yoga, clean healthy living, and bike rides with her kids.

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