Secondhand smoke is a mixture of smoke coming from the burning tips of cigarettes, pipes and cigars, and smoke exhaled by smokers.
Anyone around secondhand smoke breathes in the chemicals from the tobacco smoke. Secondhand smoke causes death and disease in people who do not smoke.
Thirdhand smoke is the chemical residue left from secondhand smoke.
It is what you smell on your clothes, hair, furniture or in the car. Thirdhand smoke is also the brown film on the walls. The residue can cling to surfaces for months. The particles are very tiny and can easily get into your lungs when you breathe.
No amount of secondhand smoke is safe. The
Environmental Protection Agency lists secondhand smoke as a known cause of cancer in people.
Poisonous gases and chemicals in secondhand smoke include hydrogen cyanide (used in chemical weapons), carbon monoxide (in car exhaust), butane (used in lighter fluid), ammonia, and toluene (found in paint thinners).
Toxic metals in secondhand smoke include arsenic (used in pesticides), lead, chromium (used to make steel) and cadmium (used to make batteries).
Children are also at a high risk to be exposed to thirdhand smoke. Children touch and crawl around surfaces that have chemicals on them from smoke.
Smoking near an open window, blowing smoke out of a room with a fan, using an air filter, or smoking outside does not prevent secondhand and thirdhand smoke.
According to the U.S. Surgeon General, the only way to protect your family from secondhand smoke is to live in a smoke-free environment.
Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Secondhand and Thirdhand Smoke, gen-ah-31649. Information adapted from the U.S. Surgeon General's 2006 report 'The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke' and U.S. Surgeon General's 2010 report 'How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease: What it Means To You.'
Allina Health's Patient Education Department