Toxic chem­i­cals from cig­a­rettes re­main toxic in sec­ond-hand smoke

The Hamilton Spectator - - HEALTH - MAYO CLINIC NEWS NET­WORK

Dear Mayo Clinic: Is sec­ond-hand cig­a­rette smoke dan­ger­ous to my health?

A: The short an­swer to your ques­tion is yes, sec­ond-hand smoke is dan­ger­ous. Sec­ond­hand smoke — also known as en­vi­ron­men­tal tobacco smoke — is a com­bi­na­tion of the smoke com­ing from a burn­ing cig­a­rette and the smoke ex­haled by the smoker, which spreads out to the sur­round­ing space. Sec­ond-hand smoke con­tains the same toxic chem­i­cals that are in­haled by smokers, in­clud­ing nico­tine, car­bon monox­ide, ben­zene, formalde­hyde, cyanide and a va­ri­ety of cancer-caus­ing sub­stances. The ef­fects of these chem­i­cals are greater when in­haled di­rectly from a cig­a­rette; none­the­less, the ef­fects are still toxic sec­ond-hand.

Par­ti­cles in sec­ond-hand smoke can re­main in the air for hours, and the residue that clings to a smoker’s hair, cloth­ing and other items also may pose health risks, es­pe­cially for chil­dren. This residue is some­times re­ferred to as third-hand smoke.

Ev­i­dence in­di­cates that the sec­ond-hand smoke ex­po­sure that comes from liv­ing with a smoker can in­crease your risk of lung cancer by 20 to 30 per cent. Sec­ond-hand smoke also in­creases your risk of coro­nary heart dis­ease by 25 to 30 per cent and can lead to a va­ri­ety of health risks for chil­dren, as well as for preg­nant women and their un­born ba­bies.

As with ac­tive smok­ing, the greater the ex­po­sure — and the longer the du­ra­tion of ex­po­sure — the greater the risk of harm, es­pe­cially for dis­eases such as lung cancer. How­ever, even short-term ex­po­sure can worsen symp­toms of asthma and coro­nary heart dis­ease.

Un­for­tu­nately, air clean­ing de­vices or fil­ters don’t ef­fec­tively clear the air of sec­ond­hand smoke.

The only way to elim­i­nate the risks of ex­po­sure is to elim­i­nate smok­ing.

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