(NaturalNews) Cigarette smoke contains up to 4,000 chemicals and many carcinogens, heavy metals, radioactive materials and contaminants, such as benzene, butane and hydrogen cyanide. People think if they don't smoke when others are around or if they open a window or turn on a fan, others are safe from the toxic effects of inhaled smoke. But researchers are warning of a new hazard called 'third-hand smoke.'
Second hand smoke is the smoke from another's cigarette. Third hand smoke refers to the invisible yet toxic gases and particles clinging to hair, skin, clothing or furnishings after smoking has ceased. The toxic chemicals in smoke can linger and become embedded in people or surroundings. These can be inhaled after any visible smoke is gone, endangering anyone who comes into contact with smokers or their homes or possessions. Airing out a room or a car by opening windows or using fans is not sufficient to rid an area of toxic contaminants.
Stuart Abramson, M.D., a pediatric immunologist at Texas Children's Hospital, and Angela Stotts, M.D., professor of family medicine at Houston's University of Texas Health Science Center, explain that being in a room where others have smoked exposes everyone to a high dose of contaminants. The particles embed on objects such as furniture, drapes, or the clothing or hair of a smoker. People who come into contact with these furnishings, or have physical contact with the smoker, receive chronic exposure to the chemicals and carcinogens left after the smoke has dissipated.
Most often it is children who are exposed to the hazardous chemicals and contaminants because they may live in homes where adults smoke or ride in cars used by smokers. Children crawl on carpets and can ingest the particles left by smoking although the room may have been aired out or cleaned.
But the children of smokers are not the only ones who can be exposed to third-hand smoke. Colleagues of smokers experience third-hand smoke when they get in an elevator occupied by a smoker who has just stepped out for a cigarette or when they work in the same room with someone who takes a cigarette break. Dr. Jonathan P. Winickoff, assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, says cigarette smoke is so toxic that the odor others notice clinging to smokers is a message: "Your brain is telling you: 'Get away.'"
Parents can protect their children from third-hand smoke by quitting smoking, or, if that is not possible, they should smoke only outside the home. Cars also should not be used for smoking. Filling the home with green plants will freshen the air, as will applying low-VOC paint to walls in rooms where smoking has occurred. Furnishings that have been exposed to years of smoke should be disposed of as cleaning is no guarantee, according to Abramson.