Thirdhand smoke is another reason to quit

| November 18, 2010 | 0 Comments

Karla Simon
U.S. Army Public Health Command (Provisional)

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. — Tobacco smoke has added a new potential danger to its list of hazards: thirdhand smoke. 

Most people know that firsthand smoke is inhaled directly by a smoker and secondhand smoke is the smoke passively breathed in by people near someone smoking. 

Researchers have determined that thirdhand smoke is the residue left on surfaces from secondhand smoke. The pungent scent of smoke that lingers in enclosed spaces long after a cigarette has been extinguished gives away the presence of thirdhand smoke.

A study published in the journal “Tobacco Control” found that the sticky residue from nicotine and tar can persist in carpets, furnishings, drapes and dust, and on skin and clothes for several months after smoking has ceased. 

These small particles can enter the body either through skin exposure, dust inhalation or ingestion.

According to the Mayo Clinic, it can take two to three minutes for smokers to stop exhaling the toxins of smoke after their last puff. Thirdhand smoke can remain on or in the smoker long enough to settle in places considered smoke-free. Babies and toddlers are of particular concern, since they have far greater exposure to contaminated surfaces. 

Many ways minimize the impact of thirdhand smoke in residences and automobiles:


  • Detoxify a home and vehicle. Tobacco smoke will infiltrate every crevice. Open windows and doors and let in fresh air when the weather permits.
  • Do a thorough cleaning. Start by washing all clothing, bedcovers, drapes and furnishings. Include windows, doors, walls, ceilings, kitchen cabinets, wall hangings, light fixtures, blinds and shades. 
  • Steam-clean carpet, upholstered furniture and car seats. Make sure to use a cleaning agent and not just a deodorizer that only masks the smell.
  • Remove smoke-infused wallpaper.
  • Regularly replace all heating and air conditioning filters.
  • Use several coats of nontoxic sealant and paint to prevent odors and nicotine stains from leaching through paint.


(Editor’s Note: Karla Simon is an industrial hygienist with the U.S. Army Public Health Command-Provisional.)

Category: News, Observances

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