Young children touch everything: rugs, tables, toys, clothes… and then they touch their mouths and faces. And in those hands with which they touch everything there is nicotine, whether their parents smoke or not. This is shown by an investigation by the San Diego State University and the University of Cincinnati, which is published this Monday by the magazine JAMA Network Open.
Researchers have used a novel method of rubbing the hands of children as young as 11 years old to measure nicotine levels. This substance present in tobacco serves as an indicator of exposure to the so-called ‘third-hand smoke’the chemical residue from tobacco smoke that remains in dust and on surfaces after someone smokes or vapes.
The result is that more than 97% of the 504 children in the study had some level of nicotine on their hands. And what is more surprising, more than 95% of the children who lived in homes in which there was no smoking and in which smoking was prohibited still had nicotine on their hands.
“This study fills an important gap. We’ve done a lot of research on thirdhand smoke in private homes, cars, hotels and casinos, but we haven’t had access to clinical populations,” says Georg Matt of San Diego State University (SDSU). ).
Lower income, more nicotine
the researchers, in a press releaseindicate that, while it is necessary to educate parents and other family members to reduce children’s exposure to thirdhand smoke by prohibiting smoking in homes and cars, this mere prohibition may not be enough to protect the little ones.
Melinda Mahabee-Gittens, a pediatric emergency physician and researcher at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, has led the data collection for the project: “One of the outcomes of this research should be to include thirdhand smoke as part of education programs. to stop smoking from parents.”
The study also shows that children from families with lower incomes had a significantly higher amount of nicotine on their hands than children from families with higher incomes.
In addition, children of black parents—statistically in households with lower household incomes—had higher amounts of nicotine on their hands than children of white or multiracial parents.
With COVID, everyone is spending more time indoors. If you live in an environment where people smoke or used to smoke, you are going to be more exposed to third-hand smoke
— SDSU researcher
“Low-income children and children of black parents suffer the most from this inadvertent exposure; this is a wake-up call to protect vulnerable children and is something that is overlooked when addressing issues of inequality in income. homes,” said Penelope Quintana, a professor of public health at SDSU and a co-author of the study.
“With COVID, everyone spends more time indoors. If you live in an environment where people smoke or used to smoke, you are going to be more exposed to third-hand smoke than before,” adds Georg Matt: “This study underlines further the importance of indoor environmental quality”.
The researchers plan to continue looking at other markers of thirdhand smoke exposure and to investigate health outcomes.
They also hope that their research will support stricter smoking bans and may even lead to regulations requiring real estate agents, landlords and owners to disclose third-hand smoke levels in properties.