Sometimes, you can smell the smoke of cigarettes hours, days, or even years after snubbing them out. This happens especially if someone smoked regularly in a room for prolonged periods of time. This is called thirdhand smoke.

Even though you aren’t directly inhaling any smoke, this lingering presence can still be harmful to your health.

Too many people willingly expose themselves to thirdhand smoke without understanding the risks it can pose.

So what is thirdhand smoke? What dangers does it pose? How can you keep yourself and your loved ones safe?

We’ll cover this and more below.

What Is Thirdhand Smoke?

Thirdhand smoke is the combination of tobacco smoke particles and gasses that stay in the air and on surfaces long after someone extinguishes a cigarette.

This residue sticks to walls, hair, clothes, carpets, and just about anything else it comes into contact with. Over time, these toxins can build up to dangerous levels, especially in enclosed spaces like homes and cars.

Thirdhand smoke is particularly harmful to young children and infants, who are more likely to put their hands or other objects contaminated with tobacco residue into their mouths.

People with persistent lung disease and seniors are also at a higher risk of health issues related to thirdhand smoke.

Though most people are aware of the dangers of first and secondhand smoke exposure, thirdhand smoke is still relatively unknown. However, that is changing.

There are a number of organizations working to raise awareness about the dangers of thirdhand smoke and ways to protect yourself from it. The goal is to educate as many people as possible about the risks of thirdhand smoke exposure so that they can take steps to protect themselves and their families.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has launched a public education campaign called “Tips from Former Smokers,” which features real-life stories from people who have been affected by tobacco use. The CDC also provides resources for smoking cessation and protecting others from secondhand and thirdhand smoke exposure.

In addition, a number of state and local governments have passed laws restricting smoking in public places, which protects non-smokers from exposure to thirdhand smoke.

What Is the Difference Between Second Hand Smoke and Thirdhand Smoke?

It’s commonly known that the smoke exhaled by smokers or produced by the lit end of a cigarette can be harmful to others. If someone inhales the smoke from another’s cigarette, this is called “secondhand smoke”. It poses the same health risks as smoking directly. This type of smoke can linger in the air for hours, exposing non-smokers to its harmful chemicals.

While many believe secondhand smoke to be a mild threat at most, it causes more than 41,000 adult deaths and 400 infant deaths each year. This is because it contains 7,000+ chemicals, at least 70 of which are known to be carcinogenic.

Thirdhand smoke, however, is the residue left behind by tobacco smoke that clings to surfaces like walls, hair, clothes, and carpets. This residue contains the same harmful chemicals as secondhand smoke, and they can be inhaled, absorbed through the skin, or accidentally ingested.

The bottom line is that you should avoid both types of smoke as they can be dangerous to your health. Whether you smoke or not, it’s important to be aware of the risks and take the necessary steps to protect yourself and your family

What Are the Dangers of Thirdhand Smoke?

The dangers posed by thirdhand smoke are not negligible. Exposure can cause DNA damage, increasing your risk of developing serious diseases like cancer.

Unfortunately, 22% of infants and children in the United States live in homes where there is regular exposure to thirdhand smoke, putting them at increased risk of developing respiratory infections. Infants, children, and the elderly are at heightened risk of developing respiratory problems due to thirdhand smoke exposure.

Thirdhand smoke has also been linked to other health risks, such as:

  • Blood clots: Thirdhand smoke exposure can damage platelets for developing babies, which can lead to serious health problems like heart attacks and strokes.
  • Slow wound healing: People who are exposed to thirdhand smoke have a prolonged and more difficult time healing from wounds.
  • Cognitive problems: Thirdhand smoke exposure has also been linked to cognitive problems like reading difficulties and other learning impairments in children.

There is mounting evidence that thirdhand smoke is especially dangerous in elderly care facilities; even if caregivers smoke outside the facility, the residue from tobacco can come inside on their clothing, hair, and skin, exposing patients to harmful toxins.

It’s also worth noting that thirdhand smoke is tough to remove. Even if you air out your home or car, and wash your clothes, the residue from tobacco smoke may still be present

Sometimes, the only way to truly get rid of it is to repaint walls or replace contaminated materials, like carpeting, upholstery, and drapes. This can be extremely costly, not to mention time-consuming.

How Can You Protect Yourself?

Thirdhand smoke exposure still happens even when you don’t smoke. So how do you protect yourself from it?

  • Avoid places where people smoke: Including hotels, bars, and vehicles where you have no control over whether or not people smoke.
  • Don’t allow smoking in your home or car: This is especially important if you have young children or elderly family members who are more susceptible to the harmful effects of thirdhand smoke.
  • Choose non-smoking restaurants: When dining out, choose non-smoking establishments or, if available, sit in the non-smoking section.
  • Wash and disinfect your hands and clothes: If you’ve been in a place where people smoke, be sure to wash your hands and clothes to remove any residue that might still be on them.
  • Deep clean your carpets and upholstery: Use a deep-cleaning method, like steam cleaning, to remove thirdhand smoke from carpets and upholstery. You can also hire a professional cleaning service to thoroughly clean and disinfect your home.
  • Seek medical attention if you experience health problems: If you start feeling sick after exposure to thirdhand smoke, see a doctor immediately.

While there is no way to completely protect yourself from thirdhand smoke, following these tips can reduce your exposure.

Final Thoughts

So, there you have it: everything you need to know about thirdhand smoke. This is important information to know so you can make the best decisions for yourself and your family.

Although research into the risks associated with thirdhand smoke is still ongoing, it is abundantly clear that it’s dangerous.

Knowing the harmful effects of thirdhand smoke allows you to take steps to protect yourself and your family.

Please Note:

The posts published on the blog are strictly for educational purposes only. They do not necessarily reflect the type and scope of home health and care services that we, or our nurse registry referred professionals, provide to clients. If you have any questions about the types of services provided by our HHA and NR licensed companies, please feel free to reach out through our contact page.