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Study shows non-smokers can absorb nicotine levels in a home that a smoker used to live in

San Diego State University researchers have found that pollutants released from cigarette smoke may linger longer within a home than previously thought, holding a presence long after the smoker has moved out. 

Georg E. Matt, study leader and a professor of psychology at San Diego State University, along with a team of researchers, has discovered that cigarette smoke pollutants can attach to home surfaces and slip into crevices for long periods of time after the smoker has already moved out. Then, when non-smokers move in, they could potentially absorb these toxic chemicals

"These oily, sticky droplets hang around for months after a smoker has left," said Matt. "While there was considerably less in homes once an active smoker moved out, there was still 10 to 20 percent of what was found while the smoker still lived there."

These pollutants have been dubbed "thirdhand smoke," and despite the fact that the home has been vacant for months and even cleaned after a smoker has left, the thirdhand smoke remains and can affect a new non-smoking occupant. 

Researchers came to this conclusion after studying the homes of 100 smokers and 50 non-smokers who were planning to move out. Nicotine levels were used as a "marker" for any other chemical residues that come from tobacco smoke. Chemicals on the walls, ceilings, floors and other surfaces were measured as well as the air. They even searched for nicotine on the residents' fingertips in all 150 homes as well as a nicotine breakdown product, cotinine, within urine samples of children.

Twenty-five non-smokers then moved into homes that were previously owned by smokers, and researchers again checked nicotine/chemical residues throughout the homes, on fingertips and in urine. After careful measurements, researchers concluded that nicotine levels in the air throughout the homes, which were vacant for two months after the smokers moved out, were 35 to 98 times as high "as they were in non-smoker homes." As far as surfaces go, nicotine levels were 30 to 150 times as high in the former smokers' homes compared to the homes of non-smokers. 

When testing for nicotine on fingertips, non-smokers who moved into the homes of smokers had nicotine levels seven to eight times higher than those who stayed in non-smoking homes. Children's urine contained nicotine levels three to five times higher than those in non-smoking homes.

"Above a certain threshold level, you can smell it," said Matt. "And if you can smell it, that means you're inhaling these compounds and they're going into your lungs. So smelling is a good indicator though it's not a super sensitive one."

Researchers advise those who live in a previous smokers' home to keep surfaces as clean as possible, and to keep children's hands clean. 

This study was published in the journal Tobacco Control.

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By Dorkyman on 12/17/2010 6:24:09 PM , Rating: 4
Given today's ability to measure extremely small levels of pretty much anything, the question then becomes: So What?

In other words, what is the level where dangerous or negative effects result? If you measure 1ppb of, say, arsenic in my drinking water, but it takes 1,000ppb to have adverse consequences, then, yes, there is arsenic in the water, but it makes no difference.

So all I want is an assessment of the negative effects of the "third-hand smoke" at the measured levels.

RE: So?
By Smartless on 12/17/2010 7:09:23 PM , Rating: 5
What's funny is the source article states that since we don't know what the effects of 3rd hand smoke is, people should wash down areas where children would touch when they move in. Hmm... Next thing you know, they'll tell us to wash our organic fruits before we eat them.

RE: So?
By Malhavoc on 12/18/2010 2:56:30 PM , Rating: 1
You should wash your organic fruit before you eat it. Why wouldn't you? Someone could have taken a crap before picking it without washing their hands, a bird could of dropped one off, your friendly neighbourhood douche could have sneezed on them in the grocery store ....

RE: So?
By SlyNine on 12/18/2010 5:54:25 PM , Rating: 5
I get the feeling alot of people missed the sarcasm.

RE: So?
By eomhS on 12/19/2010 2:30:07 PM , Rating: 2
The gov't doesn't allow you to create your own organic fruits.

RE: So?
By MrBlastman on 12/20/2010 12:51:05 PM , Rating: 2
While I think this study is overblown, I did find, to my amusement about a month ago, the growing trend of people buying homes only to find out afterwards being moved in that it was formerly a meth house. This problem is especially pronounced where I live--Atlanta, as it is the meth capital of America.

If anything, this will provide some amusement:

Unlike smoking, meth houses are doused in extremely toxic chemicals. I was absolutely shocked by what goes into the stuff. No wonder people lose their teeth from using it. Just a few weeks ago, two guys were even arrested for cooking meth in the front seat of their truck here in town!

Check out their mug shots... :)

Interesting to note, when my wife and I were shopping for a home last year we found a nice home in a neighborhood... only to discover just down the street from it in that same neighborhood a suspicious home with foil covering the windows and a prominent sign in their front yard--"No smoking on this property, please." If that wasn't a giveaway, I don't know what is.

RE: So?
By StevoLincolnite on 12/17/2010 8:53:47 PM , Rating: 3
It's also not the extremity of the concentration that you should only worry about, but how long you would be exposed to said concentration.
Especially true if you intend to live in the residence for a number of years/decades.

RE: So?
By DanNeely on 12/18/2010 12:52:47 AM , Rating: 2
Agreed. This study needs to be continued to see how long it takes the residual levels to drop to a negligible amount.

RE: So?
By Ammohunt on 12/20/2010 3:10:26 PM , Rating: 2
Nicotine verus say residue from vinyl in furniture vs various paints/varnishes vs cooking smoke vs household cleaner residue and buildup and the list goes on and on; nicotine is the least of your worries.

RE: So?
By foolsgambit11 on 12/17/2010 10:35:55 PM , Rating: 2
And while they use nicotine as a marker for the chemicals in cigarettes, do the explore whether the other toxins in cigarettes are more or less likely to persist after a smoker has left?

RE: So?
By Lerianis on 12/19/2010 1:55:32 PM , Rating: 2
Someone did a study about that a few years ago. I remember seeing it in the USAToday, and it basically said that aside from 'tar' on the walls (which had very low levels of bad things in it, less than background levels in some cases), nothing stayed in the house.

RE: So?
By 7Enigma on 12/20/2010 10:20:41 AM , Rating: 2
That was my first thought as well after reading this. It's very unlikely that something other than nicotine has a similar retention time so using big numbers like 100X the concentration of a non-smoking home is ONLY FOR NICOTINE.

RE: So?
By kattanna on 12/20/2010 11:24:56 AM , Rating: 2
i like how the pic shows someone holding a lit cig right in front of the little girl.

like the 2 things are the same.

RE: So?
By bfdd on 12/20/2010 3:39:36 PM , Rating: 1
I'm with you. I see no point in releasing this information without what PPM are bad and how long it would take to build up a bad level. Odds are you're breathing in 1ppm and it ain't shit and won't ever be shit, they're just trying to scare people like they did with the 2nd hand smoke bullshit.

If it is so evil, why not just ban smoking?
By rika13 on 12/17/2010 8:06:38 PM , Rating: 3
The current model of "tax the smokers" seems to be based entirely on the fact that it strips money from the lower class (whom are the smokers) and that smoking is so damn hard to stop, in effect, a vertical market.

BANNING the sale of cigarettes in America would have the desired effect, due to the climate needed to grow tobacco, a black market like booze during Prohibition or weed would be hard to maintain.

I believe that the taxation model is designed to abuse the vertical nature of cigarettes by creating a situation where the poor are made poorer, and thus, more dependent on liberal social programs.

By Performance Fanboi on 12/19/2010 6:31:55 PM , Rating: 1
due to the climate needed to grow tobacco, a black market like booze during Prohibition or weed would be hard to maintain.

Just like how it's hard to maintain the black market for weed which requires a similar climate to grow right?

By cjc1103 on 12/20/2010 9:10:39 AM , Rating: 1
Banning cigarettes will probably never happen, as there's too much money floating around. Tobacco companies make lots of money, states make lots of money in taxes, tobacco creates jobs (but at what cost to our health?), tobacco companies pay lobbyists to advance their cause, provide subsidies to tobacco farmers, and spread lies about their product.
You don't have to smoke, but it's addictive, and hard to stop. But the tobacco companies have a problem - their product kills people, and they need a constant supply of new customers to stay in business. Most people who smoke learned how when they were young, and easily influenced. So they market cigarettes to young people in order to renew their customer base.
What we need is to have a better anti-smoking program targeted at children in school, to show them the dangers of smoking, and stop them from starting.

By Spivonious on 12/20/2010 9:38:05 AM , Rating: 1
On the contrary, they need to legalize marijuana to get rid of the black market and make some money taxing it. People will do what they want to do, regardless of its legality. Why not make some money off of it?

"thirdhand smoke"?? You have to be kidding!!
By ZoSo on 12/18/2010 3:14:37 AM , Rating: 2
"Thirdhand smoke", that has to be one of the most ridiculous things I've heard to research! Not to mention a waste of time, resources and money, that could be used for more important things in our world.
There's little to no concrete proof that even second hand smoke can have adverse effects, unless there's heavy long term exposure. And if a non-smoker is living in that kind of environment, there's something already wrong with them, and the people creating it!
There's so many more things that we use on a daily basis, that can cause quick serious health issues, including early death, then "thirdhand smoke", that we need to be more concerned about.
But politics, media, and greed steer most people anymore, what's this world coming to? Plus people are getting to damn soft anymore.
On a sidenote, as far as lowering re-sale value of a house, that's a joke!! All my years dealing with housing, I've never once heard of that. In a nutshell, the value of a house is based on the house and land it's on, not what it smells like.. LOL
Before you know it we'll be hearing, kids that pick there nose can get cancer because they itched their ass!!(and there will be studies and research wasted on that too) Good grief!
Just my 2 cents ;)

By Moishe on 12/21/2010 2:20:01 PM , Rating: 2
The world is dangerous, and the next report will be about 4th and 5th hand smoke and the negative ooh soo scary effects of 2nd hand whiplash in care accidents.

So while the stupid in the population are trembling in fear over the basic fact that the world is inherently dangerous, the politician and elite can run around and do what the hell they want.

AmIRight? Yep.

Too many jackholes out there crying wolf.

By Moishe on 12/21/2010 2:20:22 PM , Rating: 2
The world is dangerous, and the next report will be about 4th and 5th hand smoke and the negative ooh soo scary effects of 2nd hand whiplash in care accidents.

So while the stupid in the population are trembling in fear over the basic fact that the world is inherently dangerous, the politician and elite can run around and do what the hell they want.

AmIRight? Yep.

Too many jackholes out there crying wolf.

So what?
By kjboughton on 12/17/2010 6:59:48 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah? And just about every Federal Reserve Note in circulation has been shown to have trace amounts of illegal narcotics present.

I suppose now we're all going to get high and die from handling all that "money." Please. Spare me.

Why don't you guys stick more to the "tech" aspect of things and leave the leftist BS to sites like the Huffington Post?

RE: So what?
By BladeVenom on 12/18/2010 8:01:14 AM , Rating: 3
Don't forget the fecal bacteria.

Study Shows...
By EBH on 12/20/2010 2:17:50 PM , Rating: 2
That second hand farts linger in peoples homes long after they have evacuated their bowels.

PS: The sky is falling.

RE: Study Shows...
By Moishe on 12/21/2010 2:22:16 PM , Rating: 2
I've been waiting for the sky to fall all my life! The damn thing must be really, really far away, cuz it just never gets here!

I think we need to spend some of this grant money on lobotomies for politicians... it think it would make them more effective.

Bigger worries inside homes
By DoeBoy on 12/17/2010 6:41:03 PM , Rating: 2
I am more worried about bad ventilation in a house that would result in an increased radon gas exposure than I am about something like this.

A better reason
By jimhsu on 12/18/2010 12:36:24 AM , Rating: 2
There's a better reason ... it just plain smells bad. All else being equal, a house filled with oily nicotine odor isn't going to sell as a house without that awful smell. Then again, it's your house -- I don't particularly care if you choose to lower your home's resale value instead of being slightly less lazy and stepping outside.

congrats smokers!
By inperfectdarkness on 12/19/2010 4:50:11 AM , Rating: 2
the resale value on your car is now justifiably lower. cue seinfield episode.

By RainDaemon on 12/20/2010 1:38:46 AM , Rating: 2
"Non-smokers... die every day."

- Bill Hicks

This is nothing....
By CptTripps on 12/20/2010 6:17:45 PM , Rating: 2
This is nothing to worry about. There is another killer out there, it does not care if you are old or young, male or female, it just wants you dead.

Fourth hand smoke.... beware.

Grandma Wouldn't Roll in Her Grave
By METALMORPHASIS on 12/17/10, Rating: -1
RE: Grandma Wouldn't Roll in Her Grave
By Kurz on 12/18/2010 10:10:14 AM , Rating: 1
She beat the odds, Congrats?

RE: Grandma Wouldn't Roll in Her Grave
By EricMartello on 12/18/2010 11:30:57 AM , Rating: 3
Maybe grandma would have lived another 10-15 years if she hadn't been smoking since 13...and even if you live a "long" life it's not exactly going to be're probably not going to be doing anything physically stressful with the diminished lung capacity.

By mindless1 on 12/18/2010 7:51:34 PM , Rating: 2
You probably have it backwards, that if a non-smoker lives 10-15 years longer, those last years would be ones where their quality of life wasn't very good... unless you know a lot of 90 yo who are active and do "physically stressful" things??

On the contrary, by that point in life someone probably can't remember where they put their cigarettes so they stop smoking by default.

Smoking FTW?
By The Insolent One on 12/18/10, Rating: -1
RE: Smoking FTW?
By mindless1 on 12/18/2010 7:57:05 PM , Rating: 1
By all means, don't smoke if you don't want to... but attributing all these other factors is very misleading, as if you are suggesting and singling out one set of problems trying to assume there are no other things that cause harm to your health or appearance.

The fact is, life causes death. Some try to live a long miserable life and others just grab life by the horns and ride it for all it's worth.

That's not a justification to smoke by any means, just one that it is in fact other factors we should focus on like increasing heart disease in NON-smokers... figure out the fix to that and everyone lives healthier... and yet we have mostly figured out that fix but the majority don't follow healthy living practices and that includes those of us spending idle time on the internet, watching TV, etc. instead of doing something more active (during that time in addition to other times you might).

In other words there are lots of ways we waste away an hour when we could've had more than double the experiences... which pretty much trumps a few years difference in lifespan.

RE: Smoking FTW?
By CptTripps on 12/20/2010 6:45:49 PM , Rating: 1
Since when are professed non-smokers required to stand beside a smoker while they smoke? Most smokers I know go outside and stand away from the doors out of respect for non-smokers.

And hahahahah at "you will do harm to someone you never even met or had any direct contact with because of your smoking habit". Please show me proof that "third hand smoke" is harming the strangers who moved into an old smokers apartment.

I would imagine indoor painting is more harmfull. Time for a ban on painters.

"Young lady, in this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics!" -- Homer Simpson

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