We know, smoking is injurious to health. We are also told that passive smoking is harmful. Now the studies have proved that third-hand smoking is also injurious to health.
A team of researchers led by Yale’s Drew Gentner shows for the first time that this third-hand smoke can travel in large quantities into indoor, non-smoking environments by way of humans. The research suggests that even if someone is in a room where no one has smoked, that person could still be exposed to many of the hazardous chemical compounds that make up cigarette smoke, depending on who else had entered the room or previously visited it.
“In real-world conditions, we see concentrated emissions of hazardous gases coming from groups of people who were previously exposed to tobacco smoke as they enter a non-smoking location with strict regulations against indoor smoking,” said Gentner, associate professor of chemical & environmental engineering. “People are substantial carriers of third-hand smoke contaminants to other environments. So, the idea that someone is protected from the potential health effects of cigarette smoke because they’re not directly exposed to second-hand smoke is not the case.”
The researchers brought highly sensitive analytical instrumentation into a movie theatre to track thousands of compounds, present as either gases or particles, over the course of a week. A diverse range of volatile organic compounds found in tobacco smoke spiked dramatically when certain audiences arrived for the movies. These increases were minor for G-rated movies, while audiences for R-rated movies—which included moviegoers more likely to smoke or to be exposed to smoke—consistently released much larger quantities of these compounds into the theatre. The relative proportions of these emitted compounds confirmed that they were from slightly aged cigarette smoke.
The amount of these hazardous and reactive gases wasn’t trivial, the researchers said. The gas emissions were equal to that of being exposed to 1-10 cigarettes of secondhand smoke in a one-hour period. These emissions and air concentrations peaked upon audience arrival and decreased over time, but not completely, even when the audiences left. In many cases, the movie-goers left a persistent contamination observable the following days in the unoccupied theatre. The researchers said that is because the chemicals don’t remain entirely in the air, but are also adsorbed onto various surfaces and furnishings, just as it does with third-hand smoke contamination in places where smoking has occurred.