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.
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.
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."
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.
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
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.
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
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."
advise those who live in a previous smokers' home to keep surfaces as
clean as possible, and to keep children's hands clean.
study was published in the journal Tobacco