Household Dust, Surfaces Trap Cigarette Smoke
Hidden Sources of Secondhand Smoke May Put Children at Risk
WebMD News Archive
Feb. 23, 2004 -- Smokers who attempt to reduce the risks that
cigarette smoke poses to their children by smoking in a different room, when
others aren't home, or outdoors may not be fully protecting their family.
A new study shows household dust and surfaces can trap
cigarette smoke and its toxic byproducts and serve as major sources of
secondhand smoke exposure for infants and children.
Researchers say that over several weeks, household dust and
surfaces can expose infants to levels of contaminants from secondhand smoke
that are equivalent to several hours of exposure to active adult smoking.
The study shows smoking outside the home and away from the
infant can reduce this exposure but doesn't completely protect the home from
contamination or protect infants from secondhand smoke exposure.
Cigarette Smoke Lurks in Household Dust, Surfaces
In the study, researchers collected dust and surface wipe
samples from the living rooms and children's bedrooms of 49 homes where a child
between the ages of 2 months and 12 months lived. Urine samples were collected
from the infant to measure byproducts of nicotine. Air nicotine monitors were
placed in the living rooms of the homes and in the infants' bedrooms. Smokers
lived in 34 of the homes, and the other half were occupied by nonsmokers.
In 17 of the homes where a smoker resided, the smoker attempted
to protect the child by smoking outdoors, and the others made no such
The study showed levels of secondhand smoke contaminant and
exposure in infants in homes where smokers attempted to protect their children
by smoking outside were up to seven times higher than as those found in
Smoking outside the home did offer some, if not full
protection, though. Levels of tobacco contaminants and infant exposure were
eight times higher in homes where smokers smoked regularly indoors than in
those where smokers went outside.
Researchers say children and infants are particularly
vulnerable to the tobacco contaminants found in dust and on household surfaces
because they spend more time indoors and are close to the contaminated
They say the toxic components of cigarette smoke rapidly
disperse into the air and undergo chemical changes that allow them to be
absorbed into the walls, floors, furniture, clothes, toys, and other household
Researchers say the findings show that parents cannot easily
control exposure to secondhand smoke through indoor smoking bans because the
smoke components can remain in the home even if the smoking took place days,
weeks, and months earlier.
"Smokers will find it difficult -- if not impossible -- to
protect their children from [environmental smoke exposure] and its toxic
components," write researcher G.E. Matt, PhD, of San Diego State
University, and colleagues.