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Evaluating a protocol for the removal of thirdhand smoke in homes of former smokers

Institution: University of California, Berkeley
Investigator(s): Todd Whitehead,
Award Cycle: 2019 (Cycle 29) Grant #: T29IP0284 Award: $493,225
Subject Area: Environmental Exposure/Toxicology
Award Type: High Impact Pilot Award

Initial Award Abstract
Thirdhand smoke is the tobacco residue that gets left behind by cigarette smoke stuck to carpets, walls, and furniture. Thirdhand smoke contains many of the same harmful things as cigarette smoke; in fact, thirdhand smoke actually has MORE toxins than secondhand smoke.

When nicotine from cigarette smoke gloms onto a speck of dust on the floor or a kitchen countertop, it starts to interact with other air pollutants that are commonly found inside homes to form something called tobacco-specific nitrosamines. These nitrosamines are some of the nastiest compounds found in tobacco smoke the ones which are largely responsible for the cancer-causing effects of cigarettes. It's these sticky traces of carcinogenic tobacco chemicals that make thirdhand smoke hazardous, above and beyond the risks already posed by secondhand smoke or active smoking.

Because typical cleaning removes only a portion of dust from indoor environments, thirdhand smoke tends to accumulate on the dust that settles around our homes. Troublingly, previous research shows that thirdhand smoke can be transferred from settled dust into our bodies. People may be exposed to thirdhand smoke by accidentally swallowing, breathing or touching settled dust.

Thirdhand smoke is difficult to remove and it can hang around a home for a long time, even after residents decide to quit smoking. Very few strategies for removing thirdhand smoke have been tested in the real world. So, there is an urgent need to develop an effective way to remove thirdhand smoke.

We propose to test the efficacy of a cleaning procedure which combines the steam-cleaning of carpets and furniture with the wiping of other household surfaces to remove thirdhand smoke. We will partner with a local Chinese community center to recruit participants for the intervention from a TRDRP priority group which is disproportionately impacted by tobacco-related disease. We will collect saliva from the participants and settled dust from their homes to evaluate whether the home cleaning was effective in lowering exposure to thirdhand smoke.