A closer look at third-hand smoke and its risks

Using state-of-the-art techniques, researchers gained a better understanding of the complex mix of dangerous chemicals in third-hand smoke – residual cigarette contamination – which can linger long after smoking and pose health risks to people. non smokers. -smokers.

The study, led by the lab of Drew Gentner, associate professor of chemical and environmental engineering, is featured on the cover of Environmental Sciences: Atmospheres and builds on lab research in 2020 Scientists progress examining the off-gassing of chemicals from human third-hand smoke in non-smoking indoor environments.

Outgassing (the release of chemicals from a material or surface) of third-hand smoke from residual contamination is important because of the health risks it poses. These include exposing non-smokers to high concentrations of a wide range of toxic or carcinogenic compounds derived from tobacco smoke, even over long periods after smoking – with gas concentrations that are sometimes at levels similar to fresh second-hand gas. hand smoke.

Using high-resolution mass spectrometry instruments, Yale Ph.D. graduate Dr. Roger Sheu and other researchers from Yale and the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Germany studied the emissions of third-hand smoke given off by smoke particles that have settled on surfaces and by human lung fluid that has been exposed to fresh tobacco smoke. These significant emissions included hazardous air pollutants, such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).

The results show how deposited particulate matter and lung mucosal fluid can act as carriers for these pollutants, but their emissions vary in composition and behavior. Once deposited on clothing, furniture, bodies, or in the airways, particles can release a wide range of volatile to semi-volatile gases that persist for long lifetimes. They can also spread to other materials and linger indoors well beyond the time the smoking occurred. Chemicals in human breath after smoking are prolonged with their accumulation in blood, organs and other tissues.

“Tobacco smoke particles represent a concentrated reservoir of all these chemicals that are released over time, and the results show that this can continue for days – and in many cases much longer – for a wide range of chemicals that are slowly degassed,” he said.

For example, this study demonstrates a major transport mechanism for hazardous or reactive compounds like PAHs or nicotine, an important reactive component of third-hand smoke, which helps explain previous observations of surface nicotine across a broad spectrum. environments – even those where smoking never took place.

Understanding of the health risks of third-hand smoke has increased with understanding of its chemical composition, behavior and routes of exposure, which can occur in places where smoking has taken place or be transported in other non-smoking environments. Using a detailed set of analytical chemistry tools advances knowledge about third-hand smoke and its risks.

“These methods applied in focused laboratory experiments have allowed the detailed examination of many fundamental processes driving third-hand smoke emissions with an unprecedented degree of chemical detail,” Gentner said. Still, the findings provide lessons for other types of smoke beyond cigarettes, such as the contamination left behind by wood smoke intrusion into homes during increasingly frequent wildfires.

The study appeared in the September 15e problem of Environmental Sciences: Atmospheres and the other authors are Tori Hass-Mitchell, Akima Ringsdorf, Thomas Berkemeier, Jo Machesky, Achim Edtbauer, Thomas Klüpfel, Alexander Filippi, Benjamin A. Musa Bandowe, Marco Wietzoreck, Petr Kukučka, Haijie Tong, Gerhard Lammel, Ulrich Pöschl and Jonathan Williams.

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