Study reveals new details on the dangers of third-hand smoke

Feb 08, 2010
In tests at Berkeley Lab of celluose surfaces contaminated with nicotine residues from third-hand smoke, levels of newly formed TSNAs rose 10 times following a three hour exposure to nitrous acid. TSNAs are potent carcinogens. Photo by Roy Kaltschmidt, Berkeley Lab Public Affairs

Nicotine in third-hand smoke, the residue from tobacco smoke that clings to virtually all surfaces long after a cigarette has been extinguished, reacts with the common indoor air pollutant nitrous acid to produce dangerous carcinogens. This new potential health hazard was revealed in a multi-institutional study led by researchers with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

"The burning of tobacco releases nicotine in the form of a vapor that adsorbs strongly onto indoor surfaces, such as walls, floors, carpeting, drapes and furniture. Nicotine can persist on those materials for days, weeks and even months. Our study shows that when this residual nicotine reacts with ambient nitrous acid it forms carcinogenic tobacco-specific nitrosamines or TSNAs," says Hugo Destaillats, a chemist with the Indoor Environment Department of Berkeley Lab's Environmental Energy Technologies Division. "TSNAs are among the most broadly acting and potent carcinogens present in unburned tobacco and ."

Destaillats is the corresponding author of a paper published in the (PNAS) titled "Formation of carcinogens indoors by surface-mediated reactions of nicotine with nitrous acid, leading to potential third-hand smoke hazards."

Co-authoring the PNAS paper with Destaillats were Mohamad Sleiman, Lara Gundel and Brett Singer, all with Berkeley Lab's Indoor Environment Department, plus James Pankow with Portland State University, and Peyton Jacob with the University of California, San Francisco.

The authors report that in laboratory tests using cellulose as a model indoor material exposed to smoke, levels of newly formed TSNAs detected on cellulose surfaces were 10 times higher than those originally present in the sample following exposure for three hours to a "high but reasonable" concentration of nitrous acid (60 parts per billion by volume). Unvented gas appliances are the main source of nitrous acid indoors. Since most vehicle engines emit some nitrous acid that can infiltrate the passenger compartments, tests were also conducted on surfaces inside the truck of a heavy smoker, including the surface of a stainless steel glove compartment. These measurements also showed substantial levels of TSNAs. In both cases, one of the major products found was a TSNA that is absent in freshly emitted tobacco smoke - the nitrosamine known as NNA. The potent carcinogens NNN and NNK were also formed in this reaction.

"Time-course measurements revealed fast TSNA formation, up to 0.4 percent conversion of nicotine within the first hour," says lead author Sleiman. "Given the rapid sorption and persistence of high levels of nicotine on indoor surfaces, including clothing and human skin, our findings indicate that third-hand smoke represents an unappreciated health hazard through dermal exposure, dust inhalation and ingestion."

Since the most likely human exposure to these TSNAs is through either inhalation of dust or the contact of skin with carpet or clothes, third-hand smoke would seem to pose the greatest hazard to infants and toddlers. The study's findings indicate that opening a window or deploying a fan to ventilate the room while a cigarette burns does not eliminate the hazard of third-hand smoke. Smoking outdoors is not much of an improvement, as co-author Gundel explains.

"Smoking outside is better than smoking indoors but nicotine residues will stick to a smoker's skin and clothing," she says. "Those residues follow a smoker back inside and get spread everywhere. The biggest risk is to young children. Dermal uptake of the nicotine through a child's skin is likely to occur when the smoker returns and if nitrous acid is in the air, which it usually is, then TSNAs will be formed."

The dangers of mainstream and secondhand tobacco smoke have been well documented as a cause of cancer, cardiovascular disease and stroke, pulmonary disease and birth defects. Only recently, however, has the general public been made aware of the threats posed by third-hand smoke. The term was coined in a study that appeared in the January 2009 edition of the journal "Pediatrics," in which it was reported that only 65 percent of non-smokers and 43 percent of smokers surveyed agreed with the statement that "Breathing air in a room today where people smoked yesterday can harm the health of infants and children."

Anyone who has entered a confined space - a room, an elevator, a vehicle, etc. - where someone recently smoked, knows that the scent lingers for an extended period of time. Scientists have been aware for several years that tobacco smoke is adsorbed on surfaces where semi-volatile and non-volatile chemical constituents can undergo reactions, but reactions of residual smoke constituents with atmospheric molecules such as nitrous acid have been overlooked as a source of harmful pollutants. This is the first study to quantify the reactions of third-hand smoke with nitrous acid, according to the authors.

"Whereas the sidestream smoke of one cigarette contains at least 100 nanograms equivalent total TSNAs, our results indicate that several hundred nanograms per square meter of nitrosamines may be formed on indoor surfaces in the presence of nitrous acid," says lead-author Sleiman.

Co-author James Pankow points out that the results of this study should raise concerns about the purported safety of electronic cigarettes. Also known as "e-cigarettes," electronic cigarettes claim to provide the "smoking experience," but without the risks of cancer. A battery-powered vaporizer inside the tube of a plastic cigarette turns a solution of nicotine into a smoky mist that can be inhaled and exhaled like tobacco smoke. Since no flame is required to ignite the e-cigarette and there is no tobacco or combustion, e-cigarettes are not restricted by anti-smoking laws.

"Nicotine, the addictive substance in tobacco smoke, has until now been considered to be non-toxic in the strictest sense of the term," says Kamlesh Asotra of the University of California's Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program, which funded this study. "What we see in this study is that the reactions of residual nicotine with nitrous acid at surface interfaces are a potential cancer hazard, and these results may be just the tip of the iceberg."

The Berkeley Lab researchers are now investigating the long-term stability in an indoor environment of the TSNAs produced as a result of third-hand smoke interactions with nitrous acid. The authors are also looking into the development of biomarkers to track exposures to these TSNAs. In addition, they are conducting studies to gain a better understanding of the chemistry behind the formation of these TSNAs and to find out more about other chemicals that are being produced when third-hand smoke reacts with nitrous acid.

"We know that these residual levels of nicotine may build up over time after several smoking cycles, and we know that through the process of aging, third-hand smoke can become more toxic over time," says Destaillats. "Our work highlights the importance of third-hand smoke reactions at indoor interfaces, particularly the production of nitrosamines with potential health impacts."

In the PNAS paper, Destaillats and his co-authors suggest various ways to limit the impact of the third hand smoke health hazard, starting with the implementation of 100 percent smoke-free environments in public places and self-restrictions in residences and automobiles. In buildings where substantial smoking has occurred, replacing nicotine-laden furnishings, carpets and wallboard can significantly reduce exposures.

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User comments : 32

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Quantum_Conundrum
1.7 / 5 (6) Feb 08, 2010
For the love of God, just ban tobacco like any other harmful drug...goodness.
degojoey
3.7 / 5 (3) Feb 08, 2010
Im a smoker and I agree. If no one smoked around me and I couldnt buy it, it would be 1000x easier to quit. out of site out of mind. but lets keep this cancer causing non medical smelly tar producing plant legal so the government can take its share of money! god bless america.
sender
1 / 5 (4) Feb 08, 2010
i agree with banning smokable nicotine products, it shows that the FDA, DEA, ATF and GAO are not doing their jobs properly
Tangent2
2.3 / 5 (3) Feb 08, 2010
OK.. so in what conditions would the average smoker find themselves in a nitrous acid environment??
brant
not rated yet Feb 08, 2010
OK.. so in what conditions would the average smoker find themselves in a nitrous acid environment??


At the drag strip??
CarolinaScotsman
5 / 5 (1) Feb 08, 2010
"burning of tobacco releases nicotine in the form of a vapor that adsorbs strongly onto indoor surfaces, such as walls, floors, carpeting, drapes and furniture"

Since most smokers are forced to smoke outside these days, does indoor pollution really count?
vantomic
3 / 5 (2) Feb 08, 2010
LOL...give it a rest, we know its bad.
superhuman
3.7 / 5 (3) Feb 09, 2010
Before they start rising panic they should first prove that presence of those substances in the environment leads to health problems, or at least that they enter organism and reach levels previously established to be harmful.

I am already quite skeptical about second hand smoke. A smoker inhales smoke from tens of cigarettes a day and it takes decades for him to develop lung cancer. A "second hand smoker" inhales at least 10 and probably closer to 100 times less smoke meaning he would need to live for at least hundreds or more likely thousands of years to have similar negative effects.

Third hand smoke is even more absurd.
DMorse
1 / 5 (3) Feb 09, 2010
No substances should be banned, just restricted. We shouldn't be in the business of telling people what they can consume and what they cant, this is America. The smoking of tobacco products should only occur outdoors, i know alot of smokers, and theirs houses and cars are acrid with a smoky tobacco stench, I always suspected that this had to be harmful.
otto1923
2 / 5 (4) Feb 09, 2010
it takes decades for him to develop lung cancer
Hedging your bets, eh? What is the mean, what is the distribution? Those who are often exposed to 2nd and 3rd hand smoke are children who damage a lot easier. Next time you see an older smoker and think its not an immediate concern, ask him how many people he knows who have died from the disease. Ask him what he suffers from. Ask him where his friends all are.
We shouldn't be in the business of telling people what they can consume and what they cant
We pay for their disease, their medical bills, the foul smell, the damage they do to their children, the effect they have on the quality of our lives. They are making us sick. Their droppings stick to the soles of our shoes and fill the gutters. We all have the Right to demand that this end, and the duty to see that it does. This is America.
dtxx
3 / 5 (2) Feb 09, 2010
I cannot imagine the riots that would break out if the government tried to ban tobacco. I guess we can then throw anyone who tries to grow their own cigs in jail with the people who got caught growing weed.
vantomic
3 / 5 (2) Feb 09, 2010
otto this is america! The statement I just made is not some bullshit. Don't forget where we come from and why we allow people to make choices for themselves. Embrace and go live in your protect bubble if you need to. Odds are you'll have more problems because the high stress associated with your type of thinking. You are not affected by smokers, you think you are because you are one of those types that has to argue about everything. I bet your family thinks your so great...your all morons.
Poppy4
5 / 5 (1) Feb 09, 2010
After reading this article, I did some research. According to the Eissenberg study there is no nicotine in the vapor from an electronic cigarette.
http://edition.cn...dex.html
Here is an eaplination to how this kind of stuff gets on the Internet.
http://pipeline.c..._not.php
I'm a non smoker but have come to the conclusion this option is a good thing for smokers. Just so you all know, the FDA just got the whoopy kicked out them in court over the ecig. But, the FDA fights on and more of this kind of thing will follow. Of course I'd fight like the devil too if I was going to lose MILLIONS from the tobacco industry who is also loosing big bucks as smokers convert.
danman5000
4 / 5 (2) Feb 09, 2010
I can understand smokers that have smoked for years because we didn't know as much about the harmful side effects and it's tough to quit, that's fine. What I don't get is how the tobacco companies are getting any new customers. It's constantly pounded into us that tobacco is bad and will kill you, so why would anyone want to start nowadays? Big tobacco doesn't even try to defend itself anymore. It must be the same reasoning for doing other drugs, or maybe due to smoking parents. While an outright ban is probably the best for everyone, I bet that would end up being very similar to Prohibition and be repealed quickly.
Skeptic_Heretic
4.5 / 5 (4) Feb 09, 2010
We all have the Right to demand that this end, and the duty to see that it does. This is America.

And I have the right to continue smoking regardless of what you want as long as I follow the rules because this is America.

Seriously, if you don't like it, give us somewhere else to go and we'll go there. People don't smoke because they want to. They smoke because, like me, they were once a stupid kid who started smoking and now can't stop. Prohibition does nothing but criminalize those who will continue to use a substance. If you want to stamp out smoking, start teaching your children that it's a horrid habit. It has already served to greatly decrease the number of smokers. Unsurprisingly, the children who are not taught about the dangers of smoking are far more likely to pick up that first cigarette.
jonnyboy
1 / 5 (1) Feb 09, 2010
Third hand smoke is even more BS than the second hand studies. 60 ppb is not just a little high ("The median indoor HONO level was 3.10 ppb" (IQR 2.05–5.09)
http://thorax.bmj...bstract) but 20 times the level found in a typical home and still produced such low levels of TSNA's as to be the equivelant of 1 (one) marlboro light cigarette.
http://www.starsc...stepanov tsna in.pdf
And before you all get up in my grill, I quit smoking 3 years ago because of the health concerns after smoking for over 40 years and yet it doesn't bother me a bit to hang out with people who are smoking and breathe in their second hand smoke.
jonnyboy
3 / 5 (2) Feb 09, 2010
Third hand smoke is even more BS than the second hand studies. 60 ppb is not just a little high ("The median indoor HONO level was 3.10 ppb" (IQR 2.05–5.09)
http://thorax.bmj...bstract) but 20 times the level found in a typical home and still produced such low levels of TSNA's as to be the equivelant of 1 (one) marlboro light cigarette.
http://www.starsc...stepanov tsna in.pdf
And before you all get up in my grill, I quit smoking 3 years ago because of the health concerns after smoking for over 40 years and yet it doesn't bother me a bit to hang out with people who are smoking and breathe in their second hand smoke.
superhuman
5 / 5 (3) Feb 10, 2010
We pay for their disease, their medical bills...


Smokers subsidize non-smokers, not the other way around:
http://www.physor...954.html
otto1923
4 / 5 (1) Feb 12, 2010
otto this is america! The statement I just made is not some bullshit. Don't forget where we come from and why we allow people to make choices for themselves.
So, its ok if I come over and shit in your front yard then? I mean I really want to, and this is america after all, isnt it? You stink up my space I stink up yours, ok?
Skeptic_Heretic
not rated yet Feb 12, 2010
So, its ok if I come over and shit in your front yard then? I mean I really want to, and this is america after all, isnt it? You stink up my space I stink up yours, ok?

Lude behavior is prohibited by law, smoking is not.

Pick an apples to apples comparision to drive the point.
otto1923
not rated yet Feb 12, 2010
But birds shit in your front yard all the time. Why cant I? I'll bring a tent. I'll do it at night. I'll shit in your backyard. I dont consider it Lude.

Skeptic_Heretic
not rated yet Feb 12, 2010
But birds shit in your front yard all the time. Why cant I? I'll bring a tent. I'll do it at night. I'll shit in your backyard. I dont consider it Lude.

Ok, no problem, you're more than welcome to come and do your business in my yard. As long as I have the legal right to shoot to kill anyone I deem to be trespassing on my property.
otto1923
5 / 5 (1) Feb 12, 2010
Does that mean I have the right to shoot the next smoker who forces me to inhale his exhaled stink? Hmm- might work. Maybe youre beginning to see how much I hate the addiction, what it did to my family, to my brain in the womb, to my growing lungs as a kid, to the relatives around me who whithered and died because they were addicted to a completely worthless drug. Sorry, I've thought about it, the only comparison I can make to the smell and intrusion is the one I did.

Consider the next time the urge hits you, that the only thing that cig youre about to smoke does, is relieve withdrawal symptoms from the last one you smoked. There is no 'plus' to the drug, only temporary relief from a miserable, prolonged pain. Youre affecting your ability to breathe man, the most vital and immediate thing we do to survive. Youre body screams at you every time you pick it up.
otto1923
not rated yet Feb 12, 2010
@superhuman
Yeah, I read that article. It implies that smokers only hurt themselves which we know is not true. Stillborn and miscarried babies, crib death, cleft palate, asthma, etc as well as brain and neurological damage; a long list. Heres only 2 of many articles:
http://www.physor...501.html]http://www.physor...501.html[/url]
@superhuman
Yeah, I read that article. It implies that smokers only hurt themselves which we know is not true. Stillborn and miscarried babies, crib death, cleft palate, asthma, etc; a long list. Heres only 2 of many articles:
http://www.physor...501.html]http://www.physor...501.html[/url]
http://www.physor...351.html
-Damaged children grow up to be dysfunctional adults, a costly drain on all of society. All because their parents cant stop smoking or dont really care, because -heck- their parents smoked and they turned out alright, eh? Sort of? Why should their kids be any smarter than their parents anyways?
otto1923
not rated yet Feb 12, 2010
Screwed that up. Heres the 2nd link:
http://www.physor...501.html
-You gentlemen seem to be competent researchers. Do your own searches and see what you find-
otto1923
1 / 5 (1) Feb 12, 2010
Heres a particular favorite of mine:
http://www.toledo...p;Ref=AR
"One 2000 Harvard University study, for instance, concluded that almost half of all cigarette smokers in the United States have some form of mental illness."
-Smoking causes brain damage, no doubt contributing to crime and general dysfunction in society which may cost additional billions.
Skeptic_Heretic
4.8 / 5 (4) Feb 13, 2010
There is no 'plus' to the drug, only temporary relief from a miserable, prolonged pain. Youre affecting your ability to breathe man, the most vital and immediate thing we do to survive. Youre body screams at you every time you pick it up.
I'm not ignorant of that fact, however it is a choice that I make, not a choice that you make for me.

If you want to restrict my freedoms then be prepared to no longer enjoy whatever freedom of yours I restrict...

Or we can both be adults and I can respectfully not smoke in your presence and you can respectfully not defecate in my yard and we can both be quite happy enjoying our own freedoms in a respectful manner, as is intended.
otto1923
2.5 / 5 (2) Feb 13, 2010
Or we can both be adults and I can respectfully not smoke in your presence and you can respectfully not defecate in my yard and we can both be quite happy enjoying our own freedoms in a respectful manner, as is intended.
Except that my little hobby is probably unique while I am assaulted by smokers every day. The only way to ensure my freedom and my right to breathe fresh, clean air, is to restrict your addiction by banning all smoking. Which is the more fundamental right- mine or yours? You say you suffer because of your illness; why should I have to suffer for it also? One of us could be an adult and admit to himself that his disease is optional and treatable (quit). You smokers all quit sooner or later; why not now?
it is a choice that I make,
While you continue to smoke, you HAVE no choice.
Skeptic_Heretic
not rated yet Feb 14, 2010
The only way to ensure my freedom and my right to breathe fresh, clean air, is to restrict your addiction by banning all smoking.

Might I suggest you move to Sri Lanka where the penalty for smoking is caning and jail time. Unfortunately that choice of clean fresh air will most likely cost you your life if you so choose to reside in a country that has virtually no medical infrastructure.

Their air is nice and clean and the streets are free of cigarette butts. You also can't chew gum, litter, or paint your house without a permit unless you enjoy being beaten to within an inch of your life.
otto1923
not rated yet Feb 14, 2010
Yeah yeah and we know it's not either/or don't we?
Mesafina
5 / 5 (1) Feb 14, 2010
I want to start by saying I used to smoke cigarettes, I currently smoke pot occasionally, and I drink more then I should. I also would like to say that it frustrates me that alcohol and cigarettes are legal and pot is not because it is obviously hypocritical. That said I agree with otto 100%. My fiance became addicted to cigarettes more recently and it has made me rethink some of my older feelings on the subject. I would happily give up alcohol and pot if I had to in order to see an end to smoking altogether. It is addictive. It is deadly. And the people who manufacture it for profit are criminals. I wish I believed in god, because they need to rot in hell.
Skeptic_Heretic
not rated yet Feb 14, 2010
Yeah yeah and we know it's not either/or don't we?

In your mind it is a black and white issue. I'm merely suggesting that you may be happier in a society that adheres to your principles.