February 9th, 2010

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Smoke Encounters of the Third Kind

In a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have found that third-hand smoke -- the residue of smoking that settles on clothes, furniture, carpeting, drapes, etc., and flies through the air on dust -- is nasty stuff also.  The residue interacts with nitrous acid in the air to produce highly carcinogenic tobacco-specific nitrosamines (TSNAs).  Smoking outdoors may reduce the immediate risk to nonsmokers from second-hand smoke, but not the long-term risk from TSNAs on the surfaces in a smoker's home, vehicle, or workplace, where they're picked up by people who touch the surfaces.  Study co-author Lara Grundel says, "Smoking outside is better than smoking indoors but nicotine residues will stick to a smoker's skin and clothing... Those residues follow a smoker back inside and get spread everywhere. The biggest risk is to young children... Dermal uptake of the nicotine through a child's skin is likely to occur when the smoker returns and if nitrous acid is in the air, which it usually is, then TSNAs will be formed."