3rd Hand Smoke and Babies: How Bad Is It & How to Protect Your Newborn

What is 3rd Hand Smoke?

2nd hand smoke is a familiar term these days. Many people smoke outside or go in a separate room with a window open or a fan running to protect others from the harmful smoke that lingers in the air.

Is this enough to protect others? According to doctors at MassGeneral Hospital for Children in Boston, it is not.

After someone has a cigarette and the smoke clears, invisible but toxic particulate matter from tobacco smoke continues to linger and can be passed on to others. This is known as 3rd hand smoke.

Is 3rd Hand Smoke Bad for Babies?

Is 3rd hand smoke bad for babies if I smoke in the house while my baby is not present?

Yes. Toxic chemicals can cling to walls, furniture, carpeting, floors, and other sources. Your baby can come into contact with these harmful substances by crawling on the floor or by sitting in a high chair. They can pick up the residue from dust and may ingest it by putting their hands in their mouth.

The house is not the only concern. If you smoke in your car, even with the windows down, 3rd hand smoke can cling to the inside of the car, including your baby's car seat.

Is 3rd hand smoke bad for babies if I smoke outside?

Yes. Toxic chemicals from tobacco smoke can cling to your skin, hair, and clothes and can be transferred to your baby.

Why is 3rd hand smoke bad for babies?

As mentioned, invisible substances stay behind and babies are more at risk of being exposed to higher concentrations than children and adults because they breathe at a faster rate.

According to the U.S. National Toxicology Program, tobacco smoke contains 250 poisonous chemicals and at least ten of these are cancer-causing agents.

Chemicals in 3rd hand smoke include:

  • carbon monoxide
  • hydrogen cyanide (this substance is used in chemical weapons)
  • arsenic
  • butane (found in lighter fluid)
  • lead
  • toluene (used in paint thinners)
  • ammonia
  • polonium-210 (a highly radioactive carcinogen)
  • cadmium (used to make batteries).

If you smoke, the following can help protect your baby from 3rd hand smoke:

  • it is best to stop smoking
  • do not smoke in the house or car
  • avoid homes and cars where people smoke
  • wear a smoking jacket outside and protect your hair when you smoke
  • wash your hands after smoking when you come inside.


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