Can Thirdhand Smoke Cause DNA Damage?

logo1267406_mdA new study published in the journal Mutagenesis concluded that third-hand smoke, the residue that clings to almost all surfaces long after the second hand  smoke from a cigarette has cleared out, causes significant damage in human cells. In addition, chronic exposure is worse than acute exposure because the chemical compounds in samples exposed to chronic third-hand smoke exist in higher concentrations and cause more DNA damage than samples exposed to acute third-hand smoke, suggesting that left over time smoke residue becomes more harmful. The researcher said “Tobacco-specific nitrosamines, some of the chemical compounds in third-hand smoke, are among the most potent carcinogens there are. They stay on surfaces, and when those surfaces are clothing or carpets, the danger to children is especially serious.”

Using two common in vitro assays to test genotoxicity they found third-hand smoke can cause both DNA strand breaks and oxidative DNA damage that can lead to gene mutation. Genotoxicity is associated with disease development and is a critical mechanism responsible for many types of cancer caused by smoking and secondhand smoke exposure.

Researchers put paper strips in smoking chambers. The acute sample was exposed to 5 cigarettes smoked in about 20 minutes and the chronic sample was exposed to cigarette smoke for 258 hours over 196 days,. During that time the chamber was also ventilated for about 35 hours. They found that the concentrations of more than half of the compounds studied were higher in the chronic samples than in the acute and also found higher levels of DNA damage caused by the chronic samples. The concluded that the cumulative effect of third-hand smoke is significant and the results show that materials could be getting more toxic with time.

Thirdhand smoke is difficult to eradicate and research shows that it can still be detected in apartments two months after the smokers moved out,. Common cleaning methods such as vacuuming, wiping and ventilation have not been effective in lowering nicotine contamination. Although you can do things to reduce the odor it still remains contaminated. The best solution is to substitute materials such as replacing carpet and drapes and repainting. Further research is ongoing.

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