This series features the Consortium’s newly funded projects, which engage in groundbreaking research about the nature and health consequences of thirdhand smoke. Thirdhand smoke is the chemical residue that is left behind on clothes, skin, furniture, walls, and other surfaces after someone smokes.

Thirdhand Smoke Chemistry: Exposure Assessment, Quantification Metrics, and Remediation

Hugo Destaillats, PhD
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

This project aims to better understand the harmful chemicals that remain in indoor environments after tobacco and cannabis are used. The researchers will study the chemicals that are produced when cannabis and tobacco are used together, and how the chemicals interact. They will do this by creating a small smoking room to study both substances, and then measure the chemicals in the air and on surfaces in the smoking room. This information will help researchers estimate people’s exposure to these chemicals, and their effect on health. The researchers will also develop a way to measure the relative amount of chemical contamination in indoor spaces, and investigate ways to remove the harmful chemicals from indoor materials, such as fabrics, drywall, and carpets.

When asked how his study would contribute to the Tobacco Endgame, Dr. Destaillats explained that this study will help estimate people’s exposure to the chemicals produced when tobacco and cannabis are used together, and better understand the health effects of exposure. In addition, the development of a new way of measuring the relative amount of chemical contamination in indoor spaces will help us create a tool that will promote the tobacco endgame by supporting smoke- and tobacco-free policies.

Read full abstract here.
Image: ©2010 The Regents of the University of California, through the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Genetic Susceptibility to Thirdhand Smoke Effects in Collaborative Cross Mice

Antoine Snijders, PhD
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

This study will investigate how exposure to thirdhand smoke from tobacco and cannabis affects an individual’s risk of getting cancer over their lifetime. The researchers will use animal models to study the toxic and inflammatory effects of exposure to thirdhand smoke. They hope to identify biomarkers and mechanisms associated with thirdhand smoke health effects and develop a risk prediction model to help protect the most vulnerable people from developing thirdhand smoke-induced cancer.

When asked how his study would contribute to the Tobacco Endgame, Dr. Snijders emphasized that these studies will increase our understanding of tobacco-related disease susceptibility associated with thirdhand smoke exposure. By improving understanding of exposures to tobacco and cannabis residues and their impact on disease, researchers will help advance policies that will limit negative health impacts of tobacco and cannabis and support tobacco prevention and reduction strategies. 

Read full abstract here.
Image: ©2010 The Regents of the University of California, through the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Melanin and Dermal Uptake of Thirdhand Smoke in Human Exposures

Suzaynn Schick, PhD
University of California San Francisco

This project will look at how the color of someone’s skin affects how their body absorbs chemicals from tobacco smoke. Melanin is the pigment that gives color to our skin, hair, and eyes. It also helps drugs, like nicotine, stick to our skin. Although African-Americans tend to start smoking later and smoke fewer cigarettes than White people, they are more likely to die from smoking-related diseases. The research project examines if exposure to tobacco smoked chemicals through one’s skin is influenced by skin color.  This study will involve 60 people, with 30 having light-colored skin and 30 having dark-colored skin. Everyone will wear clothes that have been exposed to cigarette smoke for three hours. After, their blood and urine will be tested to see how their body absorbs nicotine and other chemicals. If people with more melanin in their skin absorb less nicotine, it may mean that melanin helps protect against smoking-related diseases and that the increased disease risks are from other factors.

When asked how her study would contribute to the Tobacco Endgame, Dr. Schick said that whether we find that melanin is protective or harmful, our findings can be used to craft persuasive public health messages that counter the targeting of darker-skinned people by the tobacco industry and to improve scholarly understanding of the risks of environmental exposure to tobacco smoke. 

Read full abstract here.

Thirdhand Smoke in Homes: Fate, Characterization, and Remediation

Dr. Nathan Dodder

Nathan Dodder, PhD
San Diego State University

When people smoke indoors, tobacco smoke chemicals stick to surfaces and can become embedded in furniture, building materials, carpets, mattresses, clothes, and other personal belongings. Little is known about which material collect the most residue, how long it can stay there, and how quickly it can off-gas. The project will study the sorption (sticking) and desorption (releasing) of thirdhand smoke chemicals in common household materials like carpet, drywall, and cushioned furniture. The researchers will collect samples from people’s homes and test different methods to get remove thirdhand smoke. The results will help people know how to best clean thirdhand smoke in their homes and understand the risks of exposure.

When asked how his study would contribute to the Tobacco Endgame, Dr. Dodder said that outcomes from this research will contribute to Tobacco Endgame policies by informing occupants of indoor spaces about the effectiveness of remediation strategies for thirdhand smoke polluted environments and what they can expect in terms of the longevity of thirdhand smoke contamination.

Read full abstract here.

Thirdhand Smoke Disparities, Harm and Risk in Children

lab scientist

Penelope JE (Jenny) Quintana, PhD, MPH
San Diego State University

This study investigates whether smoking indoors leads to toxic metals like lead, cadmium, and arsenic in house dust. The researchers will analyze urine samples from children living in thirdhand smoke-polluted homes. Using existing samples from a clinical study led by Dr. Mahabee-Gittens, the researchers will look for signs of harm caused by metals in house dust. Previous findings suggest a connection between tobacco smoking and lead/cadmium in dust from low-income homes. This research also explores disparities in thirdhand smoke exposure based on income, housing type, and race/ethnicity. By analyzing archived samples and using non-targeted chemical analysis, scientists aim to identify toxic compounds in thirdhand smoke-contaminated dust. Researchers want to understand if low-income and minority communities bear a greater burden of involuntary thirdhand smoke exposure. Additionally, researchers will develop tests to detect thirdhand smoke contamination in homes and collaborate with the Lead Award to establish voluntary reference levels for nicotine and other thirdhand smoke chemicals in homes.

Dr. Quintana said that this project is leveraging thirdhand smoke research to inform and contribute to the California Tobacco Endgame Initiative in the environmental exposure and toxicology area. The researchers are measuring the heavy metals lead and cadmium in house dust and the relationship with biomarkers of harm in exposed children, focusing on health disparities and the disproportionate burden borne by low-income and minority communities to increase resources for prevention.

Read full abstract here.

Thirdhand Smoke Messaging Among Priority Populations

rachael record headshot

Rachael Record, PhD
San Diego State University

Thirdhand smoke is the harmful residue left behind in places where tobacco products have been used before. It can be recognized by its bad smell and stains, but many people do not know that thirdhand smoke is bad for their health and can be an expensive problem. Understanding how people perceive and experience the risks of thirdhand smoke is crucial for the Tobacco Endgame, which aims to protect everyone from tobacco-related health risks. This is especially important for minority, low-income, and underserved communities who are most exposed to thirdhand smoke. To counter tobacco industry efforts in these communities, this project has three steps. First, the priority populations, including low-income adults from Hispanic/Latino, Black/African, Asian/Pacific Islander, and LGBTQ+ communities, will share their experiences and perceptions of thirdhand smoke through focus groups and surveys. Second, messages will be developed based on the findings, considering the cultural aspects of each population. These messages will be tested in a national online survey. In the final step, effective messages will be used in a social media campaign targeting priority populations in California, and user engagement data will be collected and analyzed. The project aims to increase thirdhand smoke awareness and knowledge, leading to stronger intentions to prevent thirdhand smoke exposure. The findings will guide tobacco control efforts and Tobacco Endgame policies for these priority populations.

When asked how his study would contribute to the Tobacco Endgame, Dr. Record said
“as the tobacco endgame is about eliminating the sale and impact of commercial tobacco products, this project contributes to that goal through raising awareness of the toxic legacy of thirdhand smoke among California adults. The more we can bring the importance of thirdhand smoke prevention to the forefront of the minds of Californian’s, the closer we are to removing the hold that big tobacco has over our communities.”

Read full abstract here.

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