We know about the effects of second-hand smoke which causes approximately 3,400 lung cancer deaths and 22,700 to 69,600 heart disease deaths in adult nonsmokers in the United States each year, as
reported by the American Lung Association.
But now, experts say it’s more than just the smoke that can harm a non-smoker. As reported in the January 2009 issue of the journal Pediatrics, toxins from tobacco cling to a smoker’s hair, clothing, and on other surfaces within the home, including carpets and cushions long after a cigarette is put out. Children may then ingest these particles while playing, crawling, or just snuggling up to the smoker.
And just what, exactly, could a child come into contact with? Researchers say tobacco smoke carries 250 poisonous gases, chemicals and several harmful metals. These compounds may remain within a home long after smoking has stopped (nursing mothers who smoke may also transfer the toxins into her baby via breast milk). And over time, children who are exposed to these low levels of tobacco particles may develop cognitive deficits and psychological problems like ADHD.
According to the authors of the Pediatrics report, awareness is the first major step towards stamping out third-hand smoke. After surveying more than 1,500 households in the United States, they found that fewer than half of smokers agreed that third-hand smoke was harmful to children. Additionally, only about 25 percent had strict rules about not smoking in the house.
If you’re a smoker and have children, there’s never been a better time to quit. And if you just can’t give up the habit, try to smoke only in a place where your child won’t
come into contact with your cigarette’s remains.
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