You have heard how smoking can negatively affect your pregnancy by causing birth defects and nearly doubling your risk for preterm birth. You may also know about the harmful effects of secondhand smoke on your health and that of your children.
What is thirdhand smoke?
Thirdhand smoke is the residual chemicals and nicotine left on surfaces by tobacco smoke. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states that a few days or weeks after a cigarette is smoked, particles remain on all types of surfaces. Thirdhand smoke can be found anywhere – on the walls, carpets, bedding, seats of a car, your clothing, and even in your child’s skin and hair. Long after someone has stopped smoking, thirdhand smoke is present. Infants and children can inhale, ingest and touch things that result in exposure to these highly toxic particles.
Thirdhand smoke can be just as harmful as secondhand smoke and can lead to significant health risks. The AAP says that children exposed to smoke are at increased risk for multiple serious health effects including asthma, respiratory infections, decreased lung growth, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
The residue left from smoking builds up over time. Airing out rooms or opening windows will not get rid of the residue. In addition, confining smoking to only one area of the home or outside will not prevent your child from being exposed to thirdhand smoke.
There are ways you can limit or prevent thirdhand smoke. AAP recommends:
• Hire only non-smoking babysitters and caregivers.
• If smokers visit your home, store their belongings out of your child’s reach.
• Never smoke in your child’s presence or in areas where they spend time, including your home and car.
• If you smoke, try to quit. Speak with your child’s pediatrician or your own health care provider to learn about resources and support.
The only way to fully protect against thirdhand smoke is to create a smoke-free environment. For more information on how to quit smoking, visit http://smokefree.gov/.