Thursday, August 9, 2012

Third-hand smoke

Ever take a whiff of a smoker's hair and feel faint from the pungent scent of cigarette smoke? Or perhaps you have stepped into an elevator and wondered why it smells like someone has lit up when there is not a smoker in sight. Welcome to the world of third-hand smoke.

“Third-hand smoke is tobacco smoke contamination that remains after a cigarette has been extinguished," says Jonathan Winickoff, a pediatrician at the Dana–Farber/Harvard Cancer Center in Boston and author of a study on the new phenomenon published in the journal Pediatrics. “Third-hand smoke," a term coined by Winickoff's research team, is a relatively new concept, but one that has worried researchers and nonsmokers for several years.
Third-hand smoke refers to the tobacco toxins that build up over time—one cigarette will coat the surface of a certain room, a second cigarette will add another coat, and so on. The third-hand smoke is what remains after visible or "second-hand smoke" has dissipated from the air.
The 2006 surgeon general's report says there is no risk-free level of tobacco exposure. There are more than 250 poisonous toxins found in cigarette smoke.
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