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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.

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