How Thirdhand Smoke Can Impact Your Child's Health

Friday 29th December 2023

Ellen Warren

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An adult smoking in the car with her infant

CONTENTS

Thirdhand smoke is an invisible and potent danger, especially to children. It embeds itself deeply in fabrics and furniture long after the cigarette has been extinguished, impacting your child's health. It can change the way their immune system works and could even increase their risk of cancer.

For cigarette smoke odour removal services, you can turn to ICE Cleaning for help. Our technicians can be on-site the same day in an emergency, providing thorough and professional cleaning to ensure your property is safe to inhabit again.

Read on to learn about what makes thirdhand smoke a risk to your child's health.

Understanding thirdhand smoke

A home previously occupied by a smoker may have a lingering, stale smell of cigarette smoke. This is thirdhand smoke, and it sticks around long afterwards, lurking in fabrics and on surfaces.

This invisible pollutant is an accumulation of toxic chemicals from tobacco smoke that bind to fabrics like curtains, carpets and clothes.

While first and second-hand smoke makes their presence known through sight or smell, thirdhand smoke is more complex. It settles into surfaces, staining walls and furniture and infiltrating dust lingering in the air.

The chemistry of residual nicotine and carcinogens

Nicotine reacts with indoor air pollutants to form carcinogens, which are cancerous chemicals. This occurs when residual nicotine meets household pollutants like nitrous acid from cleaning products. They create tobacco-specific nitrosamines (TSNAs), which are notorious for their health risks.

Scientific studies have found that TSNAs are highly carcinogenic, and their presence in tobacco products contributes significantly to the increased risk of cancer associated with tobacco use. Once formed, the body absorbs TSNAs through inhalation, ingestion, or skin contact.

Thirdhand smoke exposure pathways

Thirdhand smoke clings to clothes, carpets and curtains even after you air out the room. It clings to dust particles that can infiltrate a child’s immune system as they inhale or ingest these pollutants.

Young children often explore the world with their mouths and hands, so there is potential for ingesting toxic remnants from surfaces smokers have touched before them. 

Skin contact might not seem like a direct route for thirdhand smoke exposure, but children’s skin often absorbs residues on play mats or sofas where smoking has occurred previously. So, the dangerous contaminants could still be lingering in these areas that children often use.

Health risks associated with thirdhand smoke in children

This innocent exploration can lead to ingesting harmful chemical compounds from surfaces contaminated with TSNAs. A child's developing brain and immune system means they are more vulnerable than adults.

They are at an increased risk of asthma, respiratory infections and cognitive deficits linked to TSNAs. They might be absorbing toxins that could impact their health for years to come, potentially resulting in:

  • Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
  • Ear infections
  • Lung problems
  • Damaged immune system

Latest research findings on thirdhand smoke

Research into thirdhand smoke is still ongoing as it is a relatively new discovery. Some of these findings have been proven by studies, including the following:

  • It has been associated with respiratory problems and may have developmental implications.
  • The ageing of smoke residues can lead to the formation of new compounds, some of which may be toxic.
  • Affected surfaces can continue to release harmful chemicals for years.
  • Thirdhand smoke compounds are transferred from contaminated surfaces to skin, clothing, and other objects.
  • Residual smoke compounds can be released back into the air, potentially leading to ongoing exposure.

Preventative measures to shield children from thirdhand smoke

Cleaning might seem straightforward, but it is integral to tackling thirdhand smoke. You must do this whilst wearing gloves and a face mask to protect yourself from the pollutants. Start by giving your home a deep clean and airing the space by opening windows and using standing fans.

You should also consider hiring professionals who specialise in removing such dangerous contaminants. Lifestyle changes like quitting smoking can help make your home and car strictly no-smoking zones, preventing further cigarette residue.

Frequently asked questions

How does thirdhand smoke affect children?

Children breathe, touch, and swallow thirdhand smoke residues. This damages their developing organs and increases the risk of health issues.

What are the side effects of thirdhand smoke?

Thirdhand smoke can trigger asthma, impair healing, and potentially cause DNA damage, leading to long-term problems.

Is vape smoke harmful to babies?

Babies exposed to vape residue face similar risks as those with cigarette exposure, like potential respiratory damage.

What are the harmful effects of smoking near a child?

Children could develop serious chest infections, wheezing fits, or developmental setbacks over time.

Get in touch

At ICE Cleaning, we provide cigarette smoke odour removal services, where our cleaners utilise modern technology and air quality control to eliminate TSNAs. Our cleaners will work closely with you to eliminate the source of the odour, offering expert advice to prevent the smell from lingering.

You can discover more about our smoke odour cleaning services by visiting our website today. You can request a free site survey and no-obligation quote from our friendly support team at 0208 066 0360 or enquiries@icecleaning.co.uk, who are available 24/7, 365 days a year, to help you. 

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