Tuesday, August 17, 2010

"Third Hand" Smoke, and You

You check into a motel or hotel room. It's a non-smoking room. But you detect a whiff of old cigarette... still, it's faint, not too bad, and there's a covering clean scent that pretty much clears the room of any kind of smell at all.

That's ozone, that covering clean scent. Ozone is almost universally used to de-skunk rooms--- walls and beds, after being fouled with the stench of a cigarette.

You walk in and smell the faint cigarette/ozone smell. You're tired from traveling. You just want to flop and sleep. Should you just ignore it?

RUN. Get out of that room as fast as you can!!!

Why? You are breathing a deadly brew called THIRD-HAND SMOKE.

One part ozone--- any kind, including hotel cleaning ozone, will do. One part nicotine--- secondhand smoke works just fine. Mix well. Result? "Third-hand smoke", like we said. Super-small organic aerosol particles, that penetrate your lungs incredibly deeply.

A new study by researchers with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) shows that ozone react with the nicotine in secondhand smoke--- to form ultrafine particles--- a bigger threat to asthma sufferers than nicotine itself!

At most risk are the very old and the very young. But it threatens everyone who has lungs.

Mohamad Sleiman, a chemist with the Indoor Environment Department of Berkeley Lab's Environmental Energy Technologies Division (EETD), led this research.

"Because of their size and high surface area to volume ratio, ultrafine particles have the capacity to carry and deposit potentially harmful organic chemicals deep into the lower respiratory tract where they promote oxidative stress," Sleiman says. "It's been well established by others that the elderly and the very young are at greatest risk."

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