Tobacco residue may give rise to new pollutants indoors, chemists suggest
MONDAY, Feb. 8 (HealthDay News) -- Tobacco smoke residue found on indoor surfaces -- so-called "third-hand smoke" -- can interact with airborne compounds to form new, potentially cancer-causing substances, research suggests.
Details about the potential role such third-hand smoke might play and what health concerns it might create remain unclear, however, awaiting further study.
"We're talking here about compounds that were not originally emitted by cigarettes but that may form indoors as a result of the residue that settles indoors, after smoking, which then mixes with indoor chemistry," explained Hugo Destaillats, a chemist in the indoor environment department of Berkeley National Laboratory in California and a co-author of the study.
"It's this third-hand smoke residue that is the source of the smells that we all easily perceive in a room or a car where cigarettes have been smoked, as a consequence of such places being coated with cigarette emissions," he said. "And we found that such emissions do give rise to new pollutants when they react with non-cigarette compounds found indoors."
The findings are published in the Feb. 8 online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
According to the American Cancer Society, "third-hand smoke" is a term that is sometimes used to refer to the post-smoking toxic residue left behind to float in the air and settle on surfaces once the obvious indications of smoking have dissipated.
Because third-hand smoke is a relatively new field of research, it's not certain how exposure might translate into cancer risk, the society says, although it suggests that risk would most likely pale when compared with hazards already linked to second-hand smoke exposure.
However, Destaillats and his team noted that non-smokers -- and infants, in particular -
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