Watch a video that answers this question here. The short answer: Thirdhand smoke is the chemical residue from tobacco smoke. It is also called “tobacco smoke residue” or “stale tobacco smoke.” The chemicals in thirdhand smoke are toxic to humans, especially children. It can linger for years in dust and...Read More
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Thirdhand smoke has increasingly become a global concern. Recently, three independent research studies conducted in Turkey surveyed participants about the topic of thirdhand smoke. Each of these studies adds to the mounting body of evidence that thirdhand smoke is a prevalent issue around the world and requires widespread policy and educational action to address.
Tobacco smoke contains thousands of chemicals that break down and interact with the environment. Scientists have developed sensitive tests1 using those chemical markers that can detect thirdhand smoke chemicals in the air, in house dust, on surfaces of indoor environments, and on people. However, these tests are expensive to conduct and few are available outside of university laboratories available at this time.
Electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, do not burn tobacco. Instead, e-cigarettes heat a fluid that contains nicotine, a chemical solvent, and flavor chemicals. This heated fluid creates a vapor made up of tiny droplets that looks like cigarette smoke. Just like tobacco smoke, e-cigarette vapor sticks to clothes, furniture, and other surfaces creating thirdhand smoke.
Have you ever walked into a room and gotten a whiff of stale tobacco smoke? Or maybe smelled it as someone walked by? The smell of stale cigarette smoke–even when no one is smoking–is a sign of thirdhand smoke. As we breathe in, odor receptors in our noses recognize the chemicals in thirdhand smoke and trigger a signal in our brains that allows us to recognize stale tobacco smoke.
A recent study by Thirdhand Smoke Resource Center Consortium member Melinda Mahabee-Gittens and colleagues investigated if hand nicotine levels can be used as an indicator of second- and thirdhand smoke exposure in children’s environments.