A Smoker’s Legacy: Study Reveals Carcinogens From Tobacco Smoke Linger Months After Smokers Quit


It's never pleasant to visit a smoker's home, mostly because everything, from their furniture to the bed sheets, smells like cigarette, their walls are never white and their ashtrays are always too full.

New research conducted by researchers at the San Diego State University shows that even six months after you've quit smoking, the residues penetrating the materials of your household still carry dangerous levels of carcinogens responsible for the high risks of cancer. From the nonsmokers sharing the same house to the people responsible for the dissipation of cigarette smoke, everyone is affected by these residues.

Thirdhand smoke, as the residual substance is known, persists in the immediate environment for a long time after the ventilation process is completed. The university's researchers conducted the exploration of this substances' properties, especially since studies show that smoking permanently affects your DNA.

The investigative methods were not easy to apply, either. The team recruited 90 smokers who were asked to quit (they were already intending to). During the next six months, members of the research team paid them visits in order to collect surface samples from their household items, from walls to door panels.

The analysis carried out in the laboratories shows that chemicals such as nicotine and other lung carcinogen substances such as NNK (nicotine-derived nitrosamine ketone) persisted in the items analyzed.

"It's important to know how long thirdhand smoke lingers in a home environment and if the former smoker and other residents are exposed to its toxic compounds," explained Georg E. Matt, lead author of the research.

The team discovered that tiny particles that result from smoking tobacco manage to penetrate most of the surfaces inside a home, from carpets to pillows and even wallpaper or ceiling tiles, and their residues remain stuck to these objects long after the smoking stops. The homes remained polluted with thirdhand smoke for more than half a year, therefore exposing the inhabitants to the accumulated substance.

"It leaves compounds in indoor environments that can do harm to our bodies, especially children, and sometimes we cannot see or smell it. No level of exposure to tobacco is safe," added Matt.

This smokers' legacy is not even the main reason why quitting smoking is such a complicated process that takes a lot of coordinated effort and determination. However, the odor that constantly reminds a person trying to quit smoking contributes to the powerful intensity of the cravings.

Further research will analyze the length of the process through which former smokers' houses become entirely smoke-free, as well as the processes that need to take place in order to completely clean the surfaces inside their homes.

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