Third-hand smoke increases cancer risk as well

17/3/2014

Third hand smoke (exposure to the toxic compounds of tobacco from surfaces and dust where someone has previously been smoking) may result in cancer.

This claim was presented at a recent conference and was backed by scientific evidence that third-hand smoke damages DNA, attaching to it in a way that may cause cancer.

The corresponding study was presented by Bo Hang, PhD, a scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, who in 2013 published a study of the same name in the journal Mutagenesis. Third-hand smoke is a relatively recent area of study, with the first scientific research into the subject appearing in 2009.

In 2010, a consortium was formed in California to investigate the effects of thirdhand smoke. This consortium funded Dr. Hang's research and has been working to understand the public health implications of third-hand smoke. Researchers have found that many of the 4,000 pollutants from smoke have been identified in carpets, walls, furniture and dust, as well as on the clothing, hair and skin of smokers. People can be exposed to these pollutants by inhaling, touching or ingesting them.

But some of the surface-absorbed residue from tobacco smoke can also produce additional toxicants, undergoing a chemical transformation when it interacts with compounds in the atmosphere.

The science behind this: What is 'NNA' and why is it of concern?

One of these secondary compounds is 4-(Methylnitrosamino)-4-(3-pyridyl)-butanal, or "NNA" for short. Hang and his colleagues have found that NNA attaches itself to DNA to create a cancer-causing chemical. Both NNA and another compound called 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanone), or "NNK," break down DNA. This damage to DNA can lead to cell growth becoming uncontrolled and the formation of cancerous tumors.

Though compelling, this research is still in an early phase. Dr. Hang thinks that just as it took a long time to conclusively establish a connection between firsthand smoke and cancer, it could be years before the connections between third-hand smoke, NNA and cancer are conclusive.

The best way to reduce a risk of exposure to third-hand smoke is simply by removing contaminated furniture and carpeting, and sealing and repainting walls and other surfaces.

Hang thinks that babies and toddlers are particularly at risk from third-hand smoke. Not only are they more vulnerable to the adverse effects of tobacco residue because they are still developing, but they are also more likely to touch, swallow or inhale toxic smoke compounds as they crawl and put their hands or toys in their mouths.

 

Source: Medical News Today: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/274143.php

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