Ozone Generators Remove Thirdhand Smoke Residue

Toxic thirdhand smoke is persistent and difficult to remove. A new study from Lawrence Berkeley Labs suggests ozone generators can remove recently accumulated thirdhand smoke.

January 14, 2021

By: Julie Chou

In 10 years of studying thirdhand smoke, which is the toxic cigarette residue that clings to virtually all indoor surfaces for months or years, Berkeley Lab scientist Hugo Destaillats said the most frequent question he hears from the public is how to remediate property where a smoker once lived.

Remediation companies frequently use ozone generators to eliminate odors from mold, tobacco, and fire damage, blasting homes with high levels of ozone. But scant research has been done to assess its effectiveness in removing toxic residues or identify any associated risks.

So Destaillats and colleagues from Berkeley Lab’s Indoor Environment Group designed a chamber study to determine the effects of ozonation on the concentration of chemical compounds typically found in thirdhand smoke.

Recently published in the journal Environmental Research, the study found that ozonation can transform tobacco contaminants that were adsorbed on materials, but it also caused a burst of contaminants when the generator is running. Particles remained airborne for a period of a few hours. The study highlighted the need to specify a safe re-entry time after ozonation, which should be performed in unoccupied spaces.

“Ozone could remove nicotine and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) that had adsorbed onto fabrics after smoking, but our study shows that people need to wait a few hours after the generator has run and allow the space to be ventilated before going back inside,” he said.

This study was conducted on freshly generated thirdhand smoke. Next, the researchers will look at materials that have been contaminated for much longer periods of time – on the order of years. “There are a lot of deep reservoirs for tobacco contaminants in the home. Gypsum, the main component of dry wall, is very porous and has a large capacity for indoor contaminants,” Destaillats said. “Nicotine can be stored in dry wall for quite some time. Same with carpets.”


Note: Content was edited for style and length.

Click here to read the research study.

More Must Read Stories

infographic of how smoking affects the resale value of your home

Does thirdhand smoke decrease my home’s value?

When people smoke inside their home, the chemicals in tobacco smoke build up over time and leave toxic thirdhand smoke residue on carpets, furniture, walls, doors, and ceilings. This toxic residue lingers long after smoking stops and can remain after previous smokers moved out.

Read More »

Recent Articles

pipe tobacco

Does smoking a pipe create thirdhand smoke?

Many people think that smoking a pipe is safer than smoking regular cigarettes, but pipe tobacco is also harmful to our health. Pipe smokers have an increased risk of cancers of the head, neck, liver, and lung.

collaborative consortium on thirdhand smoke research projects announcement

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.

Share This
Tweet This
Email This

Stay Informed

Get the latest thirdhand smoke news and research delivered straight to your inbox, or follow us on social media: