'Third-hand' smoke also harmful to public - expert

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 25 2013 11:52 AM | Updated as of Apr 25 2013 07:52 PM

MANILA, Philippines – Aside from first- and second-hand smoke from cigarettes, doctors are now warning the public against what is known as "third-hand smoke".

The Department of Health estimated that about 30%-40% of the Philippine population are smokers. Because of this, many are affected by first-hand and second-hand smoke. But not many people know about the ill effects of third-hand smoke.

Experts say that smoking is dangerous, as it heightens the risk of respiratory illness and heart disease, among others.

Studies have shown that chemicals in smoke affect people’s health though they have not breathed in the smoke itself. This is due mostly to third-hand smoke.

Third-hand smoke is the chemical residue of smoke from cigars and cigarettes. After the smoke itself is gone, the harmful substances get left behind and stick to objects in the room where the smoker was, such as carpets, furniture and toys. The chemicals can also settle on skin and hair.

According to Dr. Windfield Tan of the Smoking Cessation Clinic at St. Luke's Medical Center, third-hand smoke is everywhere. “Iyong kanyang abo na nakakalat sa paligid at naaabsorb ng mga sofa, ng damit, buhok, balat at naamoy or napadikit ang isang tao doon, iyon ang magiging third-hand smoke,” he said.

Harmful chemicals

According to studies, even without inhalation, people can fall ill due to chemicals from cigarettes.

Tan said that there are close to 40 chemicals in one cigarette. These chemicals remain active in the ashes and smoke of cigarettes, thus making no difference in risk between active smokers and those exposed to second- and third-hand smoke.

The US-based National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health said tobacco smoke contains harmful chemicals such as hydrogen cyanide, carbon monoxide, and ammonia. This is due to the additives used by cigarette manufacturers to improve taste.

Chemicals from cigarettes can lead to different respiratory tract infections, such as airway diseases, emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Cigarettes are also known to increase the risk of cancer.

Preventing diseases

However, good overall health and the strength of one’s immune system play a major role in preventing illness, too. Maintaining cleanliness at home, such as washing clothes that may have been exposed to cigarette smoke, can help.

“Kailangan huwag mo nang patagalin, baka suut-suotin mo pa iyon. Kailangan i-wash na kaagad,” Tan said.

Experts estimated that it takes three weeks to a year for the chemicals from cigarettes to fade from objects, especially if they are inside the house. Thus, it is best to clean items and wash bed linens, clothes and window curtains often. - Report from Pamilya OnGuard