Dangers of third-hand smoke

Venkat Murphy knows firsthand the health hazards of cigarette smoke. Just smelling it on someone's clothes or in a room can trigger an asthma attack.

“As soon as I enter a room, even if they say it's been disinfected, I can fully smell the smoke butt,” Murphy says. “I know if I do not get out of this environment it will trigger a sever exacerbation."

Murphy is reacting to third hand smoke - the nicotine residue that clings to surfaces and never leaves. It's typically hidden, but not always.

Experts say second hand smoke is six to 12 times more toxic than smoke directly inhaled by a smoker. And according to a recent study, third-hand smoke could be even more harmful because the longer nicotine toxins linger, the more time they have to form new carcinogenic chemicals that can be inhaled or ingested.

George Washington Medical Faculty Associates Pulmonologist Dr.{} Vinayak Jha says more research needs to be done on third-hand smoke, but he believes children could be the most vulnerable.

“They're crawling along floors, they're ingesting dust and they're putting other objects in their mouths which could be contaminated with third hand smoke,” Jha says.

Emerging research shows these toxins are deeply embedded surfaces in homes and cars where someone has smoked. And ABC7 put it to the test.

First, we wiped off a non-smokers windshield and it came back clean. Then we tried it on a long-time smoker's car – and the results show what the doctors have stated.

Another study on third hand smoke shows that those who live in multi-unit housing are the most at risk because just one smoker in one unit can contaminate the entire building.

For some, the most alarming part is that they're exposed to it without even realizing it.

“What about us who do not smoke?” asked Glynis Kobe. “This is the harm they're causing us. I don't think that's cool at all."

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