Dangers from Thirdhand Smoke

Thirdhand smoke: A Threat to Child Health

Thirdhand smoke is a danger to children. People with respiratory illnesses, pregnant women, the elderly, and animals are also vulnerable to thirdhand smoke. This fact sheet offers some information and offers suggestions to prevent exposure to thirdhand smoke.

What is Thirdhand Smoke?
  • The left-over contamination that persists after the cigarette is extinguished
  • The smoke residue can stick to dust, furniture, carpeting, car seats, hair or clothes
  • Homes and cars in which people have smoked may smell of cigarettes for long periods
  • Secondhand smoke particles are released into the air, combine with particles normally in the atmosphere (ie, nitrous acid or ozone) and forms a new compound called nitrosamines
  • The nitrosamines released into the air are carcinogens, or cancer-causing substances

Facts about Thirdhand Smoke
  • 43% of smokers (65% non-smokers) believe that thirdhand smoke causes harm to children
  • The 2006 Surgeon General's report on involuntary exposure to tobacco tells us that there is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke
  • Thirdhand smoke contains more than 250 chemicals
  • Decontaminating a home or car that was used by a smoker may require expensive professional cleaning as it can stain walls, floors, and the smell can remain in dry wall, insulation, and other building components
  • Smoking in different rooms, using fans to blow the smoke, or smoking in front of an open window, does not prevent the formation of thirdhand smoke
  • Babies and children can be harmed because they breathe or eat the toxins when they crawl on floors, sit on car seats, or cuddle adults, where toxins may have built up over time
  • Pets are also at risk because the carcinogens linger on their fur or feathers

How to Protect against Thirdhand Smoke
  • Do not allow smoking inside your home or car
  • Do not allow smoking near you, your children, or your pets
  • Ask anyone who cares for your child or pet to abide by these rules as well- and tell them why

Access a fact sheet on thirdhand smoke

Thirdhand Smoke Research

Thirdhand smoke has been a growing area of research, particularly among AAP Richmond Center investigators. Read some of the work being done, and view a video by the Today Show that has popularized this topic.