Everybody knows that second-hand smoke is bad but a very few people are aware of third-hand smoke, a relatively new hazard identified recently. This new term being used to describe the invisible yet toxic brew of gases and particles of cigarette that cling to smoker’s hair and clothing, not to mention cushions and carpeting that lingers long after smoke has cleared from a room.
The residue includes heavy metals, carcinogens and even radioactive materials that young children can get on their hands and ingest, especially if they are crawling or playing on the floor. Doctors from MassGeneral Hospital for Children in Boston coined the term “third-hand smoke” to describe these chemicals in a new study published in the journal Pediatrics recently.
Parents who smoke often open a window or turn on a fan to clear the air of second-hand smoke, but they can not get rid of third-hand smoke which poses a huge threat to the health of children and infants.
Smokers often try to smoke when their kids are out of the house to protect their child from hazards related to second hand smoke. Or they often smoke in the office and car. They think it is okay, because the second-hand smoke is not getting to their kids. But they should remember that the tobacco toxins those are not visible can also harm their babies, latter although they are exposed directly to smoking.
The study reported on attitudes towards smoking in 1,500 households across the United States. It found that the vast majority of both smokers and nonsmokers were aware that second-hand smoke is harmful to children. Some 95 percent of nonsmokers and 84 percent of smokers agreed with the statement that “inhaling smoke from a parent’s cigarette can harm the health of infants and children.”
But far fewer of those surveyed were aware of the risks of third-hand smoke. Since the term is so new, the researchers asked people if they agreed with the statement that “breathing air in a room today where people smoked yesterday can harm the health of infants and children.” Only 65 percent of nonsmokers and 43 percent of smokers agreed with that statement, which researchers interpreted as acknowledgement of the risks of third-hand smoke.
The experts pointed out that there are carcinogens in this third-hand smoke, and they are a cancer risk for not only children but also can affect anybody of any age who comes into contact with them.
Among the substances in third-hand smoke are hydrogen cyanide, used in chemical weapons; butane, which is used in lighter fluid; toluene, found in paint thinners; arsenic; lead; carbon monoxide; and even polonium-210, the highly radioactive carcinogen that was used to murder former Russian spy Alexander V. Litvinenko in 2006. Eleven of the compounds are found highly carcinogenic.
Dr Md Rajib Hossain
Source: The Daily Star, January 31, 2008