Understanding Thirdhand Smoke

Many people are familiar with the concept of first and secondhand smoke, but have you ever heard of thirdhand smoke?

Thirdhand smoke is made up of the pollutants that settle indoors when tobacco is smoked. The chemicals in third-hand smoke include nicotine as well as cancer-causing substances such as formaldehyde, naphthalene, and others. Cigarette smoke can linger for many months even after smoking has stopped.

Hidden dangers of thirdhand smoke

Thirdhand smoke is the residue of cigarette smoke, cigars, or other combustible products that remain on surfaces and fabrics. This includes baby car seats, the inside surface of cars, furniture, curtains, walls, etc. Anything that has come in contact with cigarette smoke.

Thirdhand smoke can affect your health in various ways:1

  • Disrupting cell reproduction and causing infertility and ovarian cancer
  • Destroying ovarian follicles and reducing fertility
  • Affecting the development of unborn babies
  • Increasing the risk of illnesses and infections
  • Causing more coughing and respiratory problems

The permanence of thirdhand smoke

After reading a few articles on thirdhand smoke, I learned that thirdhand smoke can't be eliminated by airing out rooms, opening windows, using fans or air conditioners, or confining smoking to only certain areas of a home. Traditional household cleaning often cannot effectively remove thirdhand smoke from many surfaces.

I never realized this when I was a smoker. I am embarrassed to say that I used to smoke with my kids in the car. I used to think because I had my window down that they were okay, but it wasn't.

After learning more about secondhand smoke, I never smoked again while they were in the car with me but I would still smoke in the car when they weren’t around. What I didn’t realize then is that they were still getting thirdhand smoke. Every time I smoked I was putting more and more toxins in my car to harm my kids.

I hate that I have contributed to my kid's lung health not only from the second and thirdhand smoke but also because I have passed my Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency (Alpha-1) genes onto them. That is a hard pill to swallow and I will never be able to forgive myself for that.

If you are interested in an article that I wrote about guilt you can find it here. I was diagnosed with Alpha-1 in June of 2010. I heard those words before I heard that I had COPD. I didn't know yet but because of the damage from smoking and the Alpha-1, that I had COPD which is from emphysema, and chronic bronchitis. I also have mild liver disease from the Alpha-1.

A compassionate plea

In conclusion, I ask that anyone who is reading this and still smokes to please be considerate of when and where you smoke. I won’t get on you about quitting because I know you already know that you need to do that and it makes it even worse when someone harks on you about that.

I know this personally since my family constantly asking me to stop, it just made me smoke more. It just made me smoke more. If you are considering quitting though, here is an article with helpful tips.

What are your thoughts or tips on this? Please share them in the comments below.

By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our privacy policy.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The COPD.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Join the conversation

Please read our rules before commenting.