Third-hand smoke shown to cause health problems

Smoking harms nearly every organ in the body and causes many diseases. Credit: CDC/Debora Cartagena

Do not smoke and do not allow yourself to be exposed to smoke because second-hand smoke and third-hand smoke are just as deadly as first-hand smoke, says a scientist at the University of California, Riverside who, along with colleagues, conducted the first animal study of the effects of third-hand smoke.

While first-hand smoke refers to the smoke inhaled by a smoker and second-hand smoke to the exhaled smoke and other substances emanating from the burning cigarette that can get inhaled by others, third-hand smoke is the second-hand smoke that gets left on the surfaces of objects, ages over time and becomes progressively more toxic.

"We studied, on mice, the effects of third-hand smoke on several organ systems under conditions that simulated third-hand smoke exposure of humans," said Manuela Martins-Green, a professor of cell biology who led the study. "We found significant damage occurs in the liver and lung. Wounds in these mice took longer to heal. Further, these mice displayed hyperactivity."

Study results appear in PLOS ONE.

The results of the study provide a basis for studies on the toxic effects of third-hand smoke in humans and serve to inform potential regulatory policies aimed at preventing involuntary exposure to third-hand smoke.

Third-hand smoke is a potential health threat to children, spouses of smokers and workers in environments where smoking is, or has been, allowed. Contamination of the homes of smokers by third-hand smoke is high, both on surfaces and in dust, including children's bedrooms. Re-emission of nicotine from contaminated indoor surfaces in these households can lead to nicotine exposure levels similar to that of smoking. Third-hand smoke, which contains strong carcinogens, has been found to persist in houses, apartments and hotel rooms after smokers move out.

The team led by Martins-Green found that the mice exposed to third-hand smoke in the lab showed alterations in multiple and excreted levels of a tobacco-specific carcinogen similar to those found in children exposed to second-hand smoke (and consequently to third-hand smoke):

  • In the liver, third-hand smoke was found to increase lipid levels and non-alcoholic , a precursor to cirrhosis and cancer and a potential contributor to cardiovascular disease.
  • In the lungs, third-hand smoke was found to simulate excess collagen production and high levels of inflammatory cytokines (small proteins involved in cell signaling), suggesting propensity for fibrosis with implications for inflammation-induced diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma.
  • In wounded skin, healing in mice exposed to third-hand smoke showed many characteristics of the kind of poor healing observed in human smokers who have gone through surgery.
  • Finally, in behavioral tests the mice exposed to third-hand smoke showed hyperactivity.

"The latter data, combined with emerging associated behavioral problems in children exposed to second- and third-hand smoke suggests that with prolonged exposure, they may be at significant risk for developing more severe neurological disorders," Martins-Green said.

Although the potential risks attributed to third-hand smoke exposure are increasing, virtually nothing was known about the specific health implications of acute or cumulative exposure—until now.

"There is a critical need for animal experiments to evaluate biological effects of exposure to third-hand smoke that will inform subsequent human epidemiological and clinical trials," Martins-Green said. "Such studies can determine potential human health risks, design of clinical trials and potentially can contribute to policies that lead to reduction in both exposure and disease."

Her research team was surprised to find that the damage caused by third-hand smoke extends to several organs in the body.

"More recently we have found that exposure to third-hand smoke results in changes that can lead to type II diabetes even when the person is not obese," Martins-Green said. "There is still much to learn about the specific mechanisms by which cigarette smoke residues harm nonsmokers, but that there is such an effect is now clear. Children in environments where smoking is, or has been allowed, are at significant risk for suffering from multiple short-term and longer health problems, many of which may not manifest fully until later in life."

Research has shown that children living with one or two adults who smoke in the home, where second- and third-hand smoke are abundant, are absent 40 percent more days from school due to illness than children who did not live with smokers.

The first complete ban in the world on indoor in all public spaces—including bars and restaurants—occurred in 1990 in San Luis Obispo, Calif. Earlier this month, UC Riverside joined the rest of the University of California campuses and facilities by going smoke- and tobacco-free. No tobacco use of any kind is allowed on campus property, a policy that extends to electronic cigarettes also.

Martins-Green was joined in the research by Neema Adhami, Michael Frankos, Mathew Valdez, Benjamin Goodwin, Julia Lyubovitsy, Sandeep Dhall, Monika Garcia, Ivie Egiebor, Bethanne Martinez, Harry W. Green and Margarita Curras-Collazo at UCR; Christopher Havel, Lisa Yu, Neal Benowitz, and Peyton Jacob III at UC San Francisco; Sandy Liles, Melbourne Hovell and Georg Matt at San Diego State University; Hugo Destaillats, Mohammed Sleiman and Laura A. Gundel at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Calif.; and Jonathan P. Winickoff at Harvard Medical School, Mass.

Martins-Green's lab collaborated with Curras-Collazo's lab to evaluate the effects on mice of third-hand smoke.

Explore further

Research: Memory degraded by second-hand smoke

Journal information: PLoS ONE

Citation: Third-hand smoke shown to cause health problems (2014, January 30) retrieved 21 May 2019 from
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Jan 30, 2014
I have never read so much BS in my life! Why don't you just state the Mice you used were special bred mice to get the diseases you ordered them for!

Jan 30, 2014
C57BL/6 has many unusual characteristics that make it useful for some work and inappropriate for other: It is unusually sensitive to pain and to cold, and analgesic medications are less effective in it.[1][4] Unlike most mouse strains, it drinks alcoholic beverages voluntarily. It is more susceptible than average to morphine addiction, atherosclerosis, and age-related hearing loss. Because nearly all of the mice are used at a young age and given inadequate exercise, the standard for the vast majority of lab research has been described as "a teenaged, alcoholic couch potato with a weakened immune system".[1]

Jan 30, 2014
This pretty well destroys the Myth of second hand smoke:


Lungs from pack-a-day smokers safe for transplant, study finds.

By JoNel Aleccia, Staff Writer, NBC News.

Using lung transplants from heavy smokers may sound like a cruel joke, but a new study finds that organs taken from people who puffed a pack a day for more than 20 years are likely safe.

What's more, the analysis of lung transplant data from the U.S. between 2005 and 2011 confirms what transplant experts say they already know: For some patients on a crowded organ waiting list, lungs from smokers are better than none.

"I think people are grateful just to have a shot at getting lungs," said Dr. Sharven Taghavi, a cardiovascular surgical resident at Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia, who led the new study...........................

Ive done the math here and this is how it works out with second ahnd smoke and people inhaling it!

The 16 cities study conducted by the U.S. DEPT OF ENERGY and later by Oakridge National laboratories discovered:

Cigarette smoke, bartenders annual exposure to smoke rises, at most, to the equivalent of 6 cigarettes/year.


A bartender would have to work in second hand smoke for 2433 years to get an equivalent dose.

Then the average non-smoker in a ventilated restaurant for an hour would have to go back and forth each day for 119,000 years to get an equivalent 20 years of smoking a pack a day! Pretty well impossible ehh!

Jan 30, 2014
^ Please never quit smoking.


Jan 30, 2014
Simon Chapman

" But it is equally important that consumers and policy makers are not led to believe that the chemical compounds thus located are somehow unique to tobacco smoke.

Unless in the extremely unlikely event that residents burn copious quantities of solanaceous vegetables (aubergine, tomato) which contain small amounts of nicotine, tobacco is going to be the only source of nicotine in homes.

But it will not by any means be the only source of many of the ingredients of "third hand smoke" that the unwitting or the fumophobic may believe are attributable only to smoking.

The omission of this information in such reports risks harming the credibility of tobacco control."

Jan 30, 2014
BS Alert: The 'third-hand smoke' hoax


The thirdhand smoke scam

Jan 30, 2014
Follow the money trail seems to be the best way to understand how all this comes about.

I will continue to question all the tobacco "research" ascribing it as the source of nearly every malady known to man. While I know it's not good for anyone, as an ex-smoker, it certainly wasn't easy to give up and wasn't the cause on my HPV-16 related throat cancer. It certainly wasn't doing me any good to continue to smoke. It wasn't the cause of my cancer.

I can imagine a world where the experts will have to eat their words about the causes of many maladies once the smokers and the tobacco industry has been outlawed. Just as with other "scientific" studies that are political in nature, it does not make the general public more encouraged to listen to the so called experts and increases the skepticism in science, the experts and the university systems that put out this kind of "research" as some sort of truth.

Jan 30, 2014
Research has shown that smoking is strongly linked to lung cancer, but this discovery may help scientists improve treatments for lung disease in the future........

p53 mutations in smokers and non-smokers

The main claim made by Rodin and Rodin is that `there are no significant differences between smokers and non-smokers, either in the frequency of different types of mutations or in the frequency of their occurrence along the p53 gene' .

They argue that a link between smoke-induced mutations and DNA adducts could be fortuitous, and that it is selection of {pre-existing endogenous mutations rather than smoking-induced DNA damage that determines the p53 mutational spectrum in lung tumors}. Another recent report also claims that there are no differences with respect to G?T transversions between smokers and non-smokers

The point here is that diferent assays can be shaken up in observed changes to create an outcome. Genetic studies dont used unbiased observers during their laboratory stages!

What they are finding is that cancer is going to happen in a particular site anyway and that smoking can aggrevate the site where it occurs.

Human papiloma virus and lung tumors

Detection and significance of HPV16, 18 infection, P53 overexpression and telomerase activity in patients with lung cancer]. H Niyaz, C Zhao, Y Li. Zhonghua Jie He He Hu Xi Za Zhi 2000 Nov;23(11):679-682. 110 specimens of lung cancer. "The positive rate of HPV16, 18-DNA in the lung cancer group was higher than the normal tissues group and inflammatory lesions group (all P < 0.01)." No other details in abstract.

Niyaz - Zhonghua Jie He He Hu Xi Za Zhi 2000 abstract / PubMed
Detection of human papillomavirus in non-small cell lung carcinoma by polymerase chain reaction. A Miasko, W Niklinska, J Niklinski, E Chyczewska, W Naumnik, L Chyczewski. Folia Histochem Cytobiol 2001;39(2):127-128. High risk HPV was found in 1/22 squamous cell, 1/5 large cell, 1/13 adenocarcinomas; low risk HPV found in 1 adenocarcinoma.

Miasko - Folia Histochem Cytobiol 2001 abstract / PubMed
Extremely high Langerhans cell infiltration contributes to the favourable prognosis of HPV-infected squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma of the lung. J Miyagi, T Kinjo, K Tsuhako, M Higa, T Iwamasa, Y Kamada, T Hirayasu. Histopathology 2001 Apr;38(4):355-367. HPV was detected in 12 cases (19.4%) of 62 adenocarcinomas, and in 29 cases (49.2%) of 59 squamous cell carcinomas. "Furthermore, there was no significant correlation between either Langerhans cell infiltration and smoking, or HPV infection and smoking, in either squamous cell carcinoma or adenocarcinoma cases."

Jan 31, 2014

Replies to When smokers move out and non-smokers move in: residential thirdhand smoke pollution...

From trainee to consultant, BMJ Group offers doctors around the world tailored information, special events, learning resources and recruitment services at every step along their career path.

Feb 03, 2014
Many constituents of third hand smoke can be found in all homes and cars, regardless of smoking

Simon Chapman, Professor of Public Health

University of Sydney

Matt et al's demonstration that nicotine can be detected in house dust, on surfaces and on fingers in homes formerly occupied by smokers[1] is used as a springboard to promote concern about third hand smoke(THS)[2]. Given the rudimentary nature of most domestic cleaning and the common experience of the distinctive smell of stale tobacco smoke, few will find it surprising that traces of nicotine can be found in smokers' homes long after they have vacated them.

While Schick notes several times that the health consequences of this level of exposure are unknown, the title of her editorial says that THS is "here to stay"[2], presumably an intended pun suggesting that concerns about the health implications of THS are now established. Schick notes that nicotine "and all the other things that go along with it" can pollute houses. But the soup of gases, fine and ultra-fine particles in tobacco smoke that include irritants, toxins and carcinogens has much in common with smoke emitted as pyrolisis products from the combustion of other organic matter: when you breath wood smoke[3], cooking smoke[4] or petroleum smoke[5], you are exposed to many of the very same irritants and carcinogens that are also in tobacco smoke.

So why did Matt et al consider only nicotine? There is not a house anywhere that is not finely carpeted with many of the very same pyrolysis compounds "that go along with" nicotine but which originate from everyday activities like heating, cooking, candles, electrical appliances, and leaving windows and doors open to allow household exposure to motor transport fumes. Had they done so, equally "alarming" information about all our houses would have emerged to give their findings some important perspective.

The evidence base that has supported indoor smoking restrictions is concentrated around fine particle (PM2.5) concentrations emitted in unhealthy abundance by smoking[6] and on the evidence of harm from particularly chronic exposure to those particles and what they contain. While nicotine is often used as a marker for secondhand smoke exposure and not benign[7], nicotine is far from being the chief health concern.

Ott and Seigmann[8] and Wallace and Ott[9] provide data on fine and ultra-fine particle emissions from different sources: "Controlled experiments with 10 cigarettes averaged 0.15 ng mm-2 ... ambient wood smoke averaged 0.29 ng mm-2 or about twice those of cigarettes and cigars ... In-vehicle exposures measured on 43 and 50 min drives on a California arterial highway gave PC/DC ratios of 0.42 and 0.58 ng mm-2 ... Interstate highways had PC/DC ratios of approximately 0.5 ng mm-2 with ratios above 1 ng mm-2 when driving behind diesel trucks. These PC/DC ratios were higher than the ''signature'' value of the cigarette (0.11-0.19 ngmm-2)measured in a large Indian gaming casino with smoking." [8]

Tobacco smoke also contains ultra-fine particles. Other sources of ultra-fine particles (UFPs) include "laser printers, fax machines, photocopiers, the peeling of citrus fruits, cooking, penetration of contaminated outdoor air, chimney cracks and vacuum cleaners."[8] Wallace and Ott's data on concentrations of UFPs in restaurants and cars found "cooking on gas or electric stoves and electric toaster ovens was a major source of UFP, with peak personal exposures often exceeding 100,000 particles/cm3 .... Other common sources of high UFP exposures [in restaurants] were cigarettes, a vented gas clothes dryer, an air popcorn popper, candles, an electric mixer, a toaster, a hair dryer, a curling iron, and a steam iron."[9]

It is important that research documents residuals from tobacco smoke. But it is equally important that consumers and policy makers are not led to believe that the chemical compounds thus located are somehow unique to tobacco smoke. Unless in the extremely unlikely event that residents burn copious quantities of solanaceous vegetables (aubergine, tomato) which contain small amounts of nicotine, tobacco is going to be the only source of nicotine in homes. But it will not by any means be the only source of many of the ingredients of "third hand smoke" that the unwitting or the fumophobic may believe are attributable only to smoking. The omission of this information in such reports risks harming the credibility of tobacco control.


1. Matt, G.E., et al., When smokers move out and non-smokers move in: residential thirdhand smoke pollution and exposure. Tob Control, 2011. 20(1): p. e1.

2. Schick, S., Thirdhand smoke: here to stay. Tob Control, 2011. 20(1): p. 1-3.

3. Naeher, L.P., et al., Woodsmoke health effects: a review. Inhal Toxicol, 2007. 19(1): p. 67-106.

4. Lijinsky, W., The formation and occurrence of polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons associated with food. Mutat Res, 1991. 259(3-4): p. 251-61.

5. Mehlman, M.A., Dangerous properties of petroleum-refining products: carcinogenicity of motor fuels (gasoline). Teratog Carcinog Mutagen, 1990. 10(5): p. 399-408.

6. Hyland, A., et al., A 32-country comparison of tobacco smoke derived particle levels in indoor public places. Tobacco Control, 2008. 17(3): p. 159-65.

7. Sleiman, M., et al., Formation of carcinogens indoors by surface- mediated reactions of nicotine with nitrous acid, leading to potential thirdhand smoke hazards. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 2010. 107(15): p. 6576- 81.

8. Ott, W. and M. Siegmann, Using multiple continuous fine particle monitors to characterize tobacco, incense, candle, cooking, wood burning, and vehicular sources in indoor, outdoor, and in-transit settings. Atmospheric Environment, 2006. 40: p. 821-843.

9. Wallace, L. and W. Ott, Personal exposure to ultrafine particles. Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology 0, 2011. 21: p. 20-30.

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