Collaborative Consortium on Thirdhand Smoke: Research Projects and Core Resources

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. In this installment, we feature the projects of Dr. Elena Elkin and co-investigator Dr. Karilyn Sant, and Dr. Nicolas Lopez Galvez from San Diego State University.

Pilot Project

Investigation of Toxic Effects of Thirdhand Smoke at the Placental-Embryonic Interface
Elana Elkin, PhD; Karilyn Sant, PhD
San Diego State University

Sant picture headshot
Elana headshot

Adverse birth outcomes are a serious public health concern globally, impacting the health and finances of mothers, babies, families, and communities. Environmental pollutants are increasingly believed to contribute to complications during pregnancy, adverse birth outcomes, and developmental effects. For example, exposure to both firsthand and secondhand smoke during pregnancy has been linked to numerous complications and has negative effects on fetal development. However, little is known about the impact of maternal exposure to thirdhand smoke, which is the chemical residue left on surfaces after someone smokes. To fill this knowledge gap, we plan to use two laboratory models to investigate the toxic effects of thirdhand smoke collected from house dust on the placenta and fetal development. We will use a placental cell line and zebrafish embryos to assess toxicity levels and mechanisms of exposure. This research will provide valuable data on the toxicity of thirdhand smoke during pregnancy, which can be used to inform policies around smoking.

When asked how her study would contribute to the Tobacco Endgame, Dr. Elkin said “our pilot project will be one of the first of its kind to begin evaluating the effects of thirdhand smoke exposure on the placenta. This research will inform policies and regulations about smoking in public places and in homes where pregnant women may be exposed to thirdhand smoke.”

Read full abstract here.

Pilot Project

Assessing Exposure to Thirdhand Smoke by Analyzing Cotinine in Handwipes
Nicolas Lopez Galvez, PhD, MPH, MA
San Diego State University

Lopez Galvez headshot

Cotinine is a chemical that is found in the body and environment of people who are exposed to second- and thirdhand smoke. It is easier to measure than nicotine, which makes it a good marker for exposure. However, no one has looked at cotinine levels on skin before. We plan to investigate if measuring cotinine on hand wipes can help us tell the difference between second- and thirdhand smoke exposure. We also want to learn more about how children’s bodies absorb and get rid of cotinine. To do this, we will collect samples from 90 children who have been exposed to different levels of tobacco smoke exposure. We will then compare the cotinine levels on their skin with other measures of exposure. This information will help us understand how to measure smoke exposure in the future, and to find ways to reduce exposure altogether.

When asked how his study would contribute to the Tobacco Endgame, Dr. Lopez Galvez said “this study suggests using a straightforward test to analyze handwipes for cotinine, which will help reach the goals of the Tobacco Endgame. It’s an effortless way to measure and monitor exposure to thirdhand smoke, especially in vulnerable groups.”

Read full abstract here.

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