Know Your Environment

Secondhand Smoke

Secondhand Smoke is the smoke that is exhaled or comes off burning tobacco, which is then inhaled by others, including nearby non-smokers and pets.

  • Secondhand smoke causes approximately 7,330 deaths from lung cancer and 33,950 deaths from heart disease each year.
  • Secondhand smoke contains 7,000 chemicals, and at least 70 are known to cause cancer.
  • Exposure to secondhand smoke is known to cause heart attacks, strokes, and lung cancer.
  • It is impossible to prevent cigarette smoke from filtering through the walls between units.
  • Secondhand smoke can infiltrate into other units through hallways and stairwells.
  • There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke.

Secondhand smoke harms children and adults, and the only way to fully protect non-smokers is to eliminate smoking in all homes, worksites, and public places.

Separating smokers from non-smokers, opening windows, or using air filters does not prevent people from breathing secondhand smoke.

  • Secondhand smoke is dangerous to anyone who breathes it in.  It can stay in the air for several hours after somebody smokes. Breathing secondhand smoke for even a short time can hurt your body.

Over time, secondhand smoke has been associated with serious health problems in non-smokers:

  • Lung cancer in people who have never smoked.
  • Higher risk of heart disease‚ or heart attack.
  • Breathing problems like coughing‚ extra phlegm‚ wheezing‚ and shortness of breath.

Secondhand smoke is especially dangerous for children, babies, and women who are pregnant:

  • Mothers who breathe secondhand smoke while pregnant are more likely to have babies with low birth weight.
  • Babies who breathe secondhand smoke after birth have more lung infections than other babies.
  • Secondhand smoke causes kids who already have asthma to have more frequent and severe attacks.
  • Children exposed to secondhand smoke are more likely to develop bronchitis, pneumonia, and ear infections.

About Toxic Thirdhand Smoke

As we breathe in the polluted air, the smell of stale tobacco warns us that thirdhand smoke is present—with each breath, we are inhaling thirdhand smoke pollutants into our bodies. This mixture of thirdhand smoke pollutants contains chemicals that can irritate the throat and lungs, cause inflammation, harm normal cell functioning, damage DNA, and are known or suspected to cause cancer in humans.

Thirdhand smoke can linger indoors for a long time – months to years.

People can be exposed to thirdhand smoke by touching contaminated surfaces (absorption through the skin), eating contaminated objects or dust, and breathing in air and re-suspended thirdhand smoke components.

Thirdhand smoke is the tobacco pollution that persists in the air and on surfaces after smoking has stopped.  Secondhand smoke gases and particles become embedded in materials and objects, like carpet, walls, furniture, blankets, and toys.

These chemicals adhere to objects and can be released back into the air or accumulate in house dust.

Thirdhand smoke is the harmful residue that clings to virtually all indoor surfaces long after the secondhand smoke from a cigarette has cleared out.

  • Components found in thirdhand smoke have been proven to cause DNA damage.
  • The residue that is thirdhand smoke can react with household cleaning chemicals to create carcinogens and release them into the air.
  • Even if you can no longer smell the smoke, thirdhand smoke is still present.
  • There is no way to get rid of thirdhand smoke.

Source:  Thirdhand Smoke Research Consortium.  Hang B, Wang P, Zhao Y, Sarker A, Chenna A, Xia Y, Snijders AM, Mao JH. Adverse health effects of thirdhand smoke: From cell to animal models. Int J Mol Sci. 2017


thirdhand smoke

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Smoke-Free Living Survey

For residents of multi-unit housing (e.g., apartment buildings and condominiums), secondhand smoke can be a major concern. It can migrate from other units and common areas and travel through doorways, cracks in walls, electrical lines, plumbing, and ventilation system. Protect you and your loved ones from secondhand and thirdhand smoke. 

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