Smoking of cigarettes or bidis in India has increased over the last decade. According to theWorld Health Organization, tobacco epidemic is one of the biggest public health threats theworld has ever faced, killing more than 7 million people a year. Every day, more than 3,000people under the age of 18 try their 1st cigarette. When you smoke, more than 7,000 chemicals spread throughout your entire body and all ofyour organs. It is important to note that the effects of smoking no longer impact only the smoker, but also those around him/her.
First hand smoke is when you personally inhale smoke form a cigarette. Second hand smoke is when you breathe in smoke from someone else.Thirdhand smoke refers to the residue of secondhand smoke that lingers on surfaces such as clothing, carpeting, and furniture or inside cars. Because it is composed of smaller, ultrafine particles with a greater molecular weight, it poses a greater asthma hazard than firsthand or secondhand smoke. This residue reacts with indoor pollutants to create a toxic mix which contains cancer-causing substances, posing a potential health hazard to nonsmokers who are exposed to it, especially pregnant women and children. The effects of cigarette smoke can be very serious andharms each and every organ in the body.
Doctors at Columbia Asia Hospital, Pune say parental exposure to toxic components of third hand smoke can have a serious or even a negative impact on an infant’s lung development as postnatal or childhood exposure of smoke.
Dr Vaibhav Pandharkar,Consultant Pulmonologist, Columbia Asia Hospital, Pune, says, “Toxins from third hand smoke can enter your bloodstream when you either touch something containing the residue or breathe in some of the residue. When these toxins make their way into blood, they are then shared with your baby. These residual chemicals can have a serious impact on an unborn child’s lung development. This can cause respiratory problems later in life. Prenatal disruption of lung development can lead to asthma and other respiratory ailments that last a lifetime.”
Significant liver and lung damage was found in those exposed to strong carcinogens.Now imagine an unborn child whose lungs, brain and nervous system arestill being formed being affected by these toxins. Inhaling smoke can cause pregnancy complication including placenta previa, premature births, babies with low birth weights or birth defect, still births and sudden infant death syndrome – SIDS, infertility. Thirdhand smoke can’t be eliminated by airing out rooms, opening windows, using fans or air conditioners or confining smoking to only certain areas of home.
Many partners try to protect their unborn child by of going outside to smoke, but this is not effective for protecting your unborn baby since third-hand smoke will also cling to clothing and be carried back into the house.
“Pregnant women should avoid homes and other places where thirdhand smoke is likely to be found to protect their unborn children against the potential damage these toxins can cause to the developing infantslungs. The best prevention is to prohibit all smoking and to avoid locations, cars, and people where third-hand smoke might be present. Make sure your partner smokes outdoors and does not enter the house wearing the outer clothing they have smoked in. For example, encourage your partner to wear a coat or sweatshirt when smoking andremove it before coming indoors. In addition, after being exposed to cigarettes, it is important you andyour partner wash your hands before touching your baby”, adds Dr Vaibhav Pandharkar, Consultant Pulmonologist, Columbia Asia Hospital, Pune.
Doctors at Columbia Asia Hospital believe that the only way to protect nonsmokers, especially pregnant women from thirdhand smoke is to create a smoke-free environment at home, in cars or in public places such as restaurant and hotels.