Is Thirdhand Smoke A Hazard To Your Health?

By now, you've probably heard of the dangers of secondhand smoke. There is also such a thing as thirdhand smoke, but it's not actual smoke. Dr. Jonathan Winickoff, a pediatrician at the Dana–Farber/Harvard Cancer Center in Boston, tells Scientific American that thirdhand smoke describes tobacco toxins that accumulate on surfaces over time, and that one cigarette can add a single layer of them to items in a room. Mayo Clinic reports that while nicotine is in thirdhand smoke, other carcinogens, like formaldehyde, might also be present.

The Cleveland Clinic reports that the chemicals from cigarettes can settle on just about anything including carpet, walls, clothing, and even skin. And they can stay there for years — even after smoking has stopped. You can't get rid of it by airing out a room, and to make matters worse, thirdhand smoke is so tough to remove that some cleaning agents can't get rid of it. But is thirdhand smoke dangerous?

Children are especially susceptible to thirdhand smoke

Some experts think that the chemicals found in thirdhand smoke can be harmful. Cleveland Clinic reports that there is some interest in whether it contributes to cancer or damages DNA, but more research is needed. Dr. Winickoff explains to Scientific American that babies and children are more at risk for being harmed by thirdhand smoke because they crawl on floors and tend to put lots of things in their mouths — including their hands. But little ones aren't the only ones you need to worry about. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reports that the noxious chemicals in thirdhand smoke can be dangerous for pets, too.

The best way to deal with thirdhand smoke is to stop smoking. Sometimes the only option to completely remove it is to replace carpets, rugs, and other items that have been exposed to long-term thirdhand smoke (via Cleveland Clinic).