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Study: Thirdhand Cigarette Smoke Harmful To Human Cells

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File photo of a person lighting a cigarette. (Photo by ERIC FEFERBERG/AFP/GettyImages)

Cigarettes now contain more nicotine, and are more addictive than researchers had previously believed. (Photo by ERIC FEFERBERG/AFP/GettyImages)

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ATLANTA (CBS Atlanta) – According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, secondhand cigarette smoke contains over 7,000 chemicals. Of those, a reported 70 could cause cancer in those who are exposed.

“For nonsmokers, breathing secondhand smoke has immediate harmful effects on the cardiovascular system that can increase the risk for heart attack,” CDC researchers noted on the Center’s official website while also offering advice for those trying to avoid the smoke’s negative effects on the human body. “Eliminating smoking in indoor spaces is the only way to fully protect nonsmokers from secondhand smoke exposure.”

The site additionally noted, “Separating smokers from nonsmokers, cleaning the air, opening windows, and ventilating buildings does not eliminate secondhand smoke exposure.”

Now, new research suggests that nonsmokers and smokers alike may need to also concern themselves with the negative effects of thirdhand smoke – residual cigarette smoke found on furniture surfaces and in dust – as the findings of a new study show that thirdhand smoke can be harmful to human cells as well.

Researchers involved in the study, who conducted it out of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, Calif., were concerned about the lack of data previously collected on the subject.

“This is the very first study to show that thirdhand smoke is mutagenic and causes DNA damage, which is considered as one of the first steps toward cancer,” researcher Lara Gundel told LiveScience, noting that the team had specifically hoped to isolate and expose the risks of thirdhand smoke exposure “The purpose of the study was to find how toxic and hazardous some compounds in thirdhand smoke are, and by what mechanisms they can cause harm.”

Researchers reportedly put paper strips inside of smoking chambers for varying durations of time – from 20 minutes to 200 days – with levels of exposure ranging from “acute” to “chronic.” The cells of the paper strips were then examined to determine the chemicals that may affect those who encounter thirdhand smoke.

“The cumulative effect of thirdhand smoke is quite significant,” Gundel told the website of the team’s findings. “The findings suggest the materials could be getting more toxic with time.”

The study also stated, “We can take up markers from former smoking months, and sometimes even years after the smoker has left.”

According to LiveScience, the team’s findings were published earlier this month in the journal Mutagenesis.

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