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Third-Hand Smoke
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When I was a kid no one seemed concerned about the hazards of smoking. There wasn’t a second thought if someone lit up in a restaurant, store, or even a home. But then we learned that smoking carried the risk of lung cancer, emphysema, heart disease and other health threats.

Somewhere along the line, the question was asked, “What about those who breathe in second-hand smoke?” And we learned that “involuntary smoking” is associated not only with lung cancer, but possibly other cancers as well. Also, those exposed to second-hand smoke carry a greater risk of developing pneumonia, bronchitis, and more severe asthma.

Unfortunately, there’s now a new concern: third-hand smoke. Unlike second-hand smoke that is actually breathing in smoke, third-hand smoke is “the contamination from particles in smoke that linger long after a cigarette has been snuffed out.” 1 Researchers at MassGeneral Hospital for Children in Boston created this term to describe the harmful particles that remain on surfaces after the visible smoke is gone. These particles are especially dangerous to infants and children who inhale them.

Carcinogens and Contaminants

A pediatric immunologist at Texas Children’s Hospital states that cigarette smoke contains about 4,000 chemicals as well as many carcinogens and contaminants. These toxic chemicals drift into a smoker’s hair, skin and clothes. When a smoker holds a child, the little one can breath in those toxins. The same goes for a child sitting or lying on a sofa where smoking has occurred, playing on the carpet in a home where smoke has drifted to the floor, or traveling in a car that someone has smoked in. Although the amount of toxins is small, doctors believe that they have the same effect as a low dose of second-hand smoke.2

The kindest thing a smoker can do for his or her children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews is to stop smoking. If they dismiss the idea, it is recommended that they wash their hands (or even shower) and put on clean clothes before holding a child. It sounds like more of a fuss than just giving up the bad habit, doesn’t it? And what better incentive to kick this habit than for the health of the children that they love? Not only will these children be healthier, but they will also grow up with an example of healthful living.

We would never knowingly expose the children in our lives to toxins that could make them ill. And now that we know about third-hand smoke, we shouldn’t knowingly expose them to this, either.

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By Nancy Canwell. Copyright © 2013 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

1 http://health.msn.com/health-topics/quit-smoking/articlepage.aspx?cp-documentid=100230394&gt1=31020
2 http://www.parenting.com/article/Pregnancy/Health/On-Call-Babies-and-Third-hand-Smoke

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