Most people understand the importance of avoiding second-hand smoke, but doctors say that the risk of third-hand tobacco in one’s living environment is not only as dangerous, but that small children are more likely to come into contact with it and could develop a cough as a result. For this reason, parents should be aware of the dangers.
According to Chiu Chen-fong, director of the thoracic medicine department of Feng Yuan Hospital in Taichung, third-hand tobacco occurs when a person smokes in a closed environment, and the tobacco smoke particles settle on surfaces in the room, including the smokers’ own clothing and hair, as well as the curtains, sofa, walls and floor within the living space.
Once the smoke has settled on the curtains or furniture, even if one opens the windows to let the air circulate to freshen up the room and allow the tobacco odor to dissipate, or even if one wipes down or washes the surfaces, this will not necessarily thoroughly remove the settled particles. In some cases it will actually require replacing the furniture entirely, before the room can be returned to a living space completely devoid of tobacco hazards.
Photo: Ou Su-mei, Liberty Times 照片：自由時報記者歐素美
Chiu says that the second-hand smoke we are all familiar with is easily avoided, but once third-hand tobacco has been produced the people in the immediate environs are not really aware of it, and it will be invisible to the naked eye by family and friends sharing the same space. As a result, it can often lead to the development of respiratory problems with no obvious cause, such as a chronic cough or excessive sputum.
Importantly, small children are particularly at risk of coming into contact with third-hand tobacco hazards, because they will tend to climb over furniture and touch surfaces, unknowingly exposing themselves to the third-hand smoke particles. Families with members who come down with respiratory tract symptoms with no readily apparent cause should pay attention to whether or not anyone in the family smokes, and those who do smoke should look to quitting as soon as possible.
(Translated by Paul Cooper, Taipei Times)
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