The Third Reason Not To Smoke

TSNAS extend far beyond life of cigarette

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If you smoke—not only do you smoke—but so does your car, your clothes, your easy chair, and your carpet. The 4,000-odd chemicals, many of them carcinogens, that waft off the end of your cigarette as it burns don't just go away. Like fallout from a nuclear bomb, they gently fall out of the air to settle on any and every surface downwind.

This toxic residue is tenacious, lasting for months and resisting clean-up efforts. Long after "airing out" a room, the contaminated sludge from smoking still lingers on each and every surface where, scientists are just learning, it can be every bit as dangerous as the much-trumpeted Second Hand Smoke—the dire cancer, cardiovascular disease, pulmonary disease, and strokes.

And it turns out that stepping outside for your cancer stick to protect your family from Second Hand Smoke isn't enough, after all. The cancer-causing chemicals, like leeches or parasites, cling to your clothing, your skin, your hair, and sneak back into your home and stay there long after you stub out the butt. Welcome to the newly recognized Third Hand Smoke.

Just what is Third Hand Smoke?

It's eye of newt, and toe of frog, wool of bat, and tongue of dog…  No. Wait. That's the Witches' brew from Shakespeare's Macbeth. The industrial witches' brew of Third Hand Smoke is made up of hydrogen cyanide, lead, butane, arsenic, carbon monoxide, toluene, polonium-210 and more. Not nearly as lyrical as Shakespeare, but every bit as frightening.

This mix of carcinogens, heavy metals, and assorted poisons builds up on any surface cigarette smoke's wafty tentacles can touch. Like running a paint roller across a wall, each new cig adds a new layer to the toxic residue.

Most of this fallout ends up on the floor, so it poses the greatest risk to members of smoker's families who spend the most time on the floor: babies and small children who play in, and crawl through, the contaminated debris of smoking. These same small people are also the ones most at risk from the chemicals and heavy metals in the Third Hand Smoke; as their developing bodies are more sensitive to contaminates of any kind.

Third Hand Smoke can be anchored either directly to surfaces or to free dust particles. Babies crawling across it can soak it in through their skins, or inhale it as they stir up dust. In fact, children breathe in double the amount of dust that adults do, both because of their proximity to dust (working and commuting across the floor) and due to their higher respiratory rates. But, because of their smaller size, their relative exposure to nasty stuff in the dust is twenty-fold that of an adult.

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Last Modified Date: June 05, 2013

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