Second-hand smoke is a term that generally refers to inhaling tobacco smoke coming from someone else’s burning cigarette or smoke that has been exhaled. Many people are shocked to learn that, according to the American Cancer Society, this kind of smoke can have even higher concentrations of carcinogens (cancer-causing agents) than smoke inhaled directly by the smoker, writes Robert Kravitz.
Third-hand smoke, on the other hand, is a relatively new concept. Third-hand smoke refers to the residue of nicotine and other chemicals that is left behind on surfaces after coming in contact with tobacco smoke. People can be exposed to third-hand smoke by touching surfaces contaminated with it. Researchers are still studying its possible dangers.
“This residue is thought to react with common indoor pollutants,” says Dr. Lowell Dale with the Mayo Clinic. “This toxic mix… poses a potential health hazard to non-smokers exposed to it.”
According to Dr Dale, third-hand smoke typically clings to clothes, furniture, upholstery and carpets. And because it clings to surfaces, it cannot be removed by simply airing out rooms.
Over time, “It can build up on surfaces and can even resist normal cleaning,” adds Dr Dale.
Mark Baxter, an engineer with US Products, believes there are steps that cleaning professionals can take to address the problem in homes and commercial facilities.
“Removing third-hand smoke from carpets calls for restorative cleaning,” he says. “Select effective chemicals. If pre-spraying carpets, make sure the chemical is allowed proper ‘wet’ dwell time. And use extractors that heat the water/cleaning solution. Heat makes the entire cleaning process more effective.”