Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Thirdhand smoke is real

Thirdhand smoke (THS) results when exhaled smoke gets on surfaces -- clothing, hair, homes and cars. THS has been shown, in mice, to damage the liver and lungs, complicate wound-healing and cause hyperactivity. Add to this list now type 2 diabetes, the most common form of the disease.

Research published in PLOS ONE shows, in mice, that THS exposure causes insulin resistance, a precursor to type 2 diabetes.

If confirmed in humans, our study could greatly impact how people view exposure to environmental tobacco toxins. Children and the elderly are especially vulnerable to THS and its impact on health. Because infants frequently crawl on carpets and touch objects exposed to exhaled smoke, they are at high risk for THS exposure. The elderly are at high risk simply because older organs are more susceptible to disease.

THS consists of tobacco smoke toxins that linger on surfaces and in dust after tobacco has been smoked. This includes toxins that become increasingly toxic with age and are re-emitted into the air or react with other chemicals in the environment to produce new pollutants. Some of these pollutants are carcinogenic.

To rid a house of THS, you have to strip the home of everything -- furniture, appliances, paint, clothes, ducts, ventilation -- that could have THS. It would be more effective to simply move. There are cleaners we can use, but that would mean exposure to other strong chemicals.

Little was known about the specific health implications of human exposure to THS until this study.

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