Dartmouth researchers have taken an important step in the ongoing battle against secondhand tobacco smoke. They have pioneered the development of a breakthrough device that can immediately detect the presence of secondhand smoke and even third-hand smoke.
Smaller and lighter than a cellphone and about the size of a matchbox car, the device uses polymer films to collect and measure nicotine in the air. A sensor chip then records the data on an SD memory card. The technology is described in a new study appearing in the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research.
"We have developed the first ever tobacco smoke sensor that is sufficiently sensitive to measure secondhand smoke and record its presence in real time," says Professor of Chemistry Joseph BelBruno, whose Dartmouth lab conducted the research. "This is a leap forward in secondhand smoke exposure detection technology and can be considered the first step in reducing the risk of health effects."
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says children are especially vulnerable to environmental tobacco smoke. Its effects on the young can include an increased risk of pneumonia, bronchitis, asthma, and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. While many parents try not to smoke around their children, going to a different room or smoking out on the porch may not going far enough. Now, for the first time, there is a prototype sensor that will let the parent see whether or not their precautions make a difference.
"The intent of the project isn't to make them stop smoking, but it is to make them stop exposing their children to smoke. On the other hand, if they are worried about their children, demonstrating these exposures may be an incentive for them to stop," BelBruno says.
Secondhand smoke comes from the burning end of a cigarette or from smoke exhaled by the smoker. Third-hand smoke, also a potential health hazard, according to the Mayo Clinic, is nicotine residue that remains
|Contact: John Cramer|