|Photo by Peter Griffin
They all 'live' on the shirts and pants and skin and hair of smokers. They cozy down together on couches and in carpets, on bedspreads and in carseats when a smoker is in the house or car.
And they all pose a real danger to your children! Babies and toddlers, in particular, are at an increased risk of cancer and respiratory problems, such as asthma, when they are exposed to third-hand smoke.
Yes, third-hand smoke. This relatively new term is used to describe the smoke residue left behind after a cigarette has been extinguished. And it's bad stuff. I mentioned it briefly in a post about second-hand smoke I did a year ago. Eleven of the compounds found in tobacco smoke, and the particles it leaves behind, are highly carcinogenic. When a cigarette burns, the vapor that is released coats the surfaces of everything close by.
Roni Caryn Rabin shared a definition of third-hand smoke, in the New York Times, "Invisible yet toxic brew of gases and particles clinging to smokers' hair and clothing, not to mention cushions and carpeting, that lingers long after second-hand smoke has cleared from a room." The residue left behind includes heavy metals and some radioactive materials, in addition to the many carcinogens.
According to Suzaynn Schick of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California, San Francisco, "you basically build up a giant reservoir of cancer-causing compounds on every surface. And it stays there."
Do you see why I said, "Stepping outside is just not good enough?" It's not sufficient to simply not smoke around your kids, or grandkids. Because every time you step outside to do so, you step back in toting enough toxins to make those around you sick, especially young children, because their rapidly developing systems are uniquely susceptible to even very low levels of these poisons. One of the main concerns is disruption of lung development.
TNSAs (tobacco-specific nitrosamines) are killers. They are listed as one of the most broadly acting and potent carcinogens present in unburned tobacco and tobacco smoke. Exposure is through skin contact or inhalation of TNSA-infused dust particles. Altogether, there are 250 poisonous substances present in cigarette smoke. 250!!!
Stanton Glantz, director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California, San Francisco, states, "The level of toxicity in cigarette smoke is just astronomical when compared to other environmental toxins [such as particles found in automobile exhaust].
This is serious stuff, folks. Very serious. It should not be, and actually cannot be, taken lightly. Studies on rats (I know, they're not people) showed that exposure to tobacco toxins is the leading cause of SIDS. Leading cause. And it's most likely because of respiratory suppression. Umm. Do you want to take that chance??
So here's my suggestion to you parents with young children: keep them away from smokers as much as it is in your ability to do so. Check with daycare centers ... especially in-home ones, and make sure no one on staff is a smoker. Remember, they'll step outside on their breaks, and then come back inside to take care of your little ones. Yuck. Tell Grandpa he cannot smoke, even outside, when he comes to visit. And before he holds his new grandbaby, offer him a clean shirt and make sure he scrubs his hands well.
Does that seem harsh? Visit the cancer ward at your local Children's Hospital and then we can talk harsh.
Am I trying to make your life difficult? Am I trying to cause rifts in families? Of course not. I'm simply caring about your kids.
I wish, oh how I wish, I'd had these warnings when my kids were young. They were exposed all too often with both second- and third-hand smoke, and for that, I am deeply sorry.
Years from now, don't spend your life looking back in regret. Be proactive. Make changes. Love your kids enough. They deserve it.
Caring about the little ones,