Children in smoke-free homes still exposed to tobacco residue
Nearly all children have nicotine on their hands, even those living in smoke-free environments, according to NIEHS-funded research. The children were exposed via thirdhand smoke (THS), or the residue that lingers on surfaces and in dust where tobacco was used.
The study included 504 children under the age of 12 from the Cincinnati area. The researchers analyzed child handwipe samples for nicotine, a marker of THS exposure. A child was considered protected from exposure if no household member smoked or vaped, smoking and vaping were banned in homes and cars, and there was no contact with tobacco users within the previous week.
Nicotine was detected on 98% of children living in exposed conditions and, surprisingly, on 95% of children in protected spaces. On average, exposures of about 3 nanograms per wipe were observed among children from protected households and 22 nanograms per wipe among children in exposed households.
Among children considered to be protected, children of Black parents had higher exposure than those with white or multiracial parents. Children from the lowest income families had about five-fold higher nicotine exposure compared to children from families with incomes greater than $30,000. The association between income and exposure points to a potential role of income-related disparities, such as housing type and quality.
According to the authors, results suggest that decades of permissive smoking policies have created significant THS reservoirs in many indoor environments. Smoking bans, exposure screening, and THS remediation are needed to help protect children.
Citation: Matt GE, Merianos AL, Quintana PJE, Hoh E, Dodder NG, Mahabee-Gittens EM. 2022. Prevalence and income-related disparities in thirdhand smoke exposure to children. JAMA Netw Open 5(2):e2147184.