Toxic Dangers to Children from Third-Hand Smoke

Monday, January 05, 2009 by: Susanne Morrone, C.N.C.
Tags: smoking, health news, Natural News

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(NaturalNews) Most people recognize potential health risks to the smoker and those exposed to second-hand smoke. Throughout the world, cigarette labels warn of potential impotence, fetal injury, premature births, cancer, heart disease, emphysema, gum disease, and tooth loss. The Surgeon General's report in 2006 on involuntary smoking stated that more than 126 million people are exposed to second-hand smoke with 50,000 deaths annually.

There is another concern--third-hand smoke which contains contaminants of tobacco toxins after visible smoke dissipates. The journal Pediatrics 2009, reports a study led by Dr. Jonathan Winickoff of Massachusetts General Hospital. The study included a national survey of 1,478 people and their beliefs on the health effects of third-hand smoke. Two-thirds of non-smokers agreed that it would be harmful to their children, compared to less than half of smokers.

Research has documented the association between smoking in the home and persistently high levels of tobacco toxins well beyond the period of active smoking. These toxins take the form of particulate matter deposited in a layer onto every surface in loose household dust. These volatile toxic compounds off gas into the air over a period of days, weeks and months. Particulate matter from tobacco smoke includes 250 poisonous gases, chemicals and metals according to the National Toxicology Program. Among these are hydrogen cyanide (used in chemical weapons), carbon monoxide (found in car exhaust), butane (used in lighter fluid), ammonia (used in household cleaners), toluene (found in paint thinners), arsenic (used in pesticides), lead (formerly found in paint), chromium (used to make steel), cadmium (used to make batteries) and highly radioactive polonium-210.

Dr. Winckoff stated: "Eleven of the compounds are classified as Group 1 carcinogens, the most dangerous. When you smoke--anyplace--toxic particulate matter from tobacco smoke gets into your hair and clothing. When you come into contact with your baby, even if you're not smoking at the time, the baby comes in contact with those toxins. And if you breastfeed, the toxins will transfer to your baby in your breast milk." He commented, however, that breastfeeding is still preferable.

The study concluded there is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke. Small children are especially susceptible to third-hand smoke exposure. They have faster respiration than adults and can inhale near, crawl and play on, or touch and mouth contaminated surfaces. Dr. Winickoff further stated, "Emphasizing that third-hand smoke harms the health of children may be an important element in encouraging home smoking bans. Health messages about third-hand smoke contamination could be easily incorporated into current tobacco control campaigns, programs, and routine clinical practice."

Awareness of children's unique susceptibility to toxins of all kinds should impel us to keep a home environment as pollutant free as possible. Besides stopping future in-home smoking, methods to help resolve the residue problem can include inexpensive measures like opening windows, air- filtering plants and cleaning with non-toxic cleaning products. Additionally, a high-quality and effective air purifier would be a blessing.

The full study is presented in the journal Pediatrics 2009; 123: e74-e79.

About the author

Susanne Morrone, C.N.C., is an author, speaker and natural health educator. Her book, "The Best Little Health Book Ever," is the quintessential natural health primer. She is also included in "101 Great Ways to Improve Your Health" by Her mission and educational outreach is found at

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