Friday, 6 May 2011

More thirdhand smoke garbage



Last year I mentioned the TRDRP's multi-million dollar cash bonanza on offer to any scientist prepared to sacrifice their integrity for the ludicrous cause of thirdhand smoke (THS). There has been no shortage of takers, as a study recently published in the American Journal of Physiology indicates:

Methods: Fetal rat lung explants were exposed to nicotine, 1-(N-methyl-N-nitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridinyl)-4-butanal (NNA), or 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanone (NNK), the two main tobacco-specific N-nitrosamine constituents of THS, for 24h...

Conclusion: NNK and NNA exposure resulted in breakdown of alveolar epithelial-mesenchymal cross-talk, reflecting lipofibroblast-to-myofibroblast transdifferentiation, suggesting THS constituents as possible novel contributors to in utero smoke exposure-induced pulmonary damage. These data are particularly relevant for designing specific therapeutic strategies, and for formulating public health policies to minimize THS exposure.

There's nothing like calling for "public health policies" in your conclusion to show that you're a sober and disinterested scientist, is there? This comes from the pen of Virender Rehan and John Torday of UCLA (natch), two serial grant-receivers who have pocketed well over a million dollars from the TRDRP in recent years.

When I saw this abstract, my initial—if cynical—reaction was to assume that the researchers had exposed rats to high doses of  known carcinogens and then acted as if this exposure was in some way comparable to getting a whiff of stale tobacco smoke from an old carpet.

Having now seen the full study, that is pretty much what they did. You see, NNK, NNN and NNA are tobacco-specific nitrosamines which are considered likely candidates for why smoking can cause lung cancer (although NNA is unproven). This is old news, as they acknowledge in their introduction.

The experimenters got some rats' lungs, chopped them up, put them on a petri dish with some penicillin and treated them with NNA and NNK for 24 hours. Varying degrees of lung damage ensued, as you might expect, most of which is far too technical for a layman like me, but we shall assume the experiment was well conducted and that the hypothesis that nitrosamines damage lungs was supported.

Fine. So what's this got to do with so-called thirdhand smoke?

This study was focused on the effects of NNA and NNK as surrogates for THS exposure within the context of our experimental design.

But NNA and NNK are not surrogates for THS exposure. Thirdhand smoke does not pump out these nitrosamines. The only way anyone has even pretended that THS creates nitrosamines was last year's laboratory experiment where nicotine was mixed with nitrous acid. That was an equally quixotic slice of chemistry because but there isn't enough nitrous acid in the air for this reaction to take place in real-life conditions. There wasn't anything technically wrong with that experiment, just as there isn't anything technically wrong with this one, it just didn't have any bearing on what goes on in the real world.

This study of rats' lungs does nothing but tell us, for the umpteenth time, that tobacco-specific nitrosamines cause molecular damage to lungs. It is possible that the results might come in handy in our understanding of the link between smoking and lung cancer but it's got bugger all to do with thirdhand smoke because thirdhand smoke does not cause nitrosamines to enter the lungs in the first place.

So while this expensive piece of research might not have been a complete waste of time if applied to active smoking, it doesn't provide the slightest justification for the American Lung Association to report:

Study: 'Thirdhand smoke' poses danger to young children, pregnant women

I'm picking out the ALA headline because the media did not widely report this study, not even the Daily Mail. Perhaps it's bullshit fatigue setting in, or perhaps the results were too sciencey for them. But while the results are written in such a way as to be impenetrable to all but specialist eyes, the discussion section is written with the clarity and hyperbole of a tabloid editorial. I don't think I have ever seen such a craven attempt to please one's sponsors. For example:

Currently, there is virtually no realization that THS is a danger to human health.

Talk about begging the question. Why would there be "realization" about something that is entirely theoretical and hugely improbable? If you substitute "shred of evidence" for "realization" in this sentence you get nearer the truth.

A recent study by Winickoff et al showed that only 65.2% of non-smokers and 43.2% of smokers believe that THS is harmful to children.

No it didn't. No one who has read that study could honestly interpret the results in that way. As Winickoff himself has admitted (in an e-mail to Rich White):

"Basically, the study found that IF you believe that thirdhand smoke is harmful to infants and children, then you were much more likely to have a home smoking ban."

They continue:

Thus, there is a critical need to validate these projections in real-life situations in the field.

I can heartily agree with that. It's perverse to keep doing these obscure and irrelevant chemistry experiments when it would be so easy to do a randomised control trial. Get a bunch of rats and stick half of them in a cage with a shirt borrowed from a smoker and see how they get on. If they drop dead I will personally donate £1,000 to the charity of your choice. Fair?

Thirdhand smoke is a stealth toxin because it is present in the households of smokers where small children and elderly people live, the hotel rooms, casinos and cars owned by smokers, and where the unsuspecting vulnerable populations may be exposed to the toxicants without realizing the dangers.

It's actually quite sad to see scientists reduced to having to write this drivel just to please their employers. If it wasn't for the fact that their work will be used to make children scared of hugging their grandparents and to get smokers kicked out of their homes, I could almost feel sorry for them.

Because THS is essentially aged SHS that is adherent to surfaces, has smaller sized ultrafine particles, but much larger sized molecular weight moieties with greatly heightened asthma hazard index values, it is likely to be much more toxic that MSS [mainstream smoke] and fresh SSS [sidestream smoke].

I've long wondered whether some of these California secondhand smoke "researchers" would be practising homeopathy if tobacco control's loot hadn't come their way. Certainly the idea that secondhand smoke is more dangerous than firsthand smoke relies on the wacky principles of homeopathy. That belief—widely shared on the internet—revolves around a simple confusion between secondhand smoke and sidestream smoke; I've written about this at length. Similarly, the idea that THS, which isn't smoke at all, is more toxic than cigarette smoke has more than a touch of woo about it.

The same risk exists for adult workers who clean and change bed sheets in hotel rooms where cigarette smoking is allowed the world over, especially in China and other countries in Africa, Asia, South America and North America - a problem of global proportions!

I'd like to think that the exclamation mark has a touch of sarcasm to it, as if they're letting the reader know that they don't believe this utter bilge any more than he does. Alas, I fear it may actually have been added to emphasise what a pair of Gallileos these two characters are.

And that's about it. I'm off on holiday tomorrow so things will be quiet round here for a week but I've got an article going up on The Free Society next week so keep an eye on that. Cheery bye!

16 comments:

Richard White said...

Thanks for the link there Chris. One other thing Winickoff mentioned in that email correspondence is that "Thirdhand smoke is just a term to describe that smell you have in your nose after the cigarette is extinguised"

Pat Nurse MA said...

I've already come across my first believer. A smoker too!

She talked about how she had no right to inflict her smoke on others and that smokers not only "stink" but the residue on their clothes is harmful to others.

I told her she had obviously been denormalised and she should therefore quit if she felt that strongly. She also said when I said passive smoking was fraud that it was "Denialism" - isn't that another made up word to use against smokers as I don't recall it's use much before the mid to late 90s when I first started hearing it.

Orbdragon said...

This ridiculousness is why I'm entertaining myself with a rubber stamp. You can bet I'll laugh like a maniac when I start getting my own bills back as change.

http://dickpuddlecote.blogspot.com/2011/04/toxic-dollar.html

Mark Wadsworth said...

Wow, this is all very sciencey, I'm out of my depth, but good work nonetheless.

Junican said...

There isn't an awful lot that can be done about these crap studies, until someone, or some organisation with serious clout, calls their bluff. Or, that the money funding the studies simply dries up. Or a combination of them all.

There are signs of hope. Not a lot as yet, but there are signs. For example, if ASH and co find it necessary to 'crack down' on smuggling and 'build on our success', there must be some serious problem. Bear in mind that only a couple of years ago ASH were saying that there was no smuggling problem.

Thus they tie themselves in knots. And the more hysterical they get, the knottier the situation becomes.

Frankly, since I now am not bothered about the smoking ban as such, I regard the whole subject as silly. In fact, the sooner Imperial Tobacco remove their headquarters from this Country, the better - BEGONE SATAN! Think about it - no more duties, no more vat, only smuggled stuff and grow your own. And, of course, we can create our own booze - no problem, if one decides to really try. Oh, and we can create our own fatty, salty food, if we wish.

Tobacco Control is certain to collapse because it is dependent upon FORCE MAJOR (government bans). When the bans cease to be effective, because there is no longer an easy target (pubs, clubs, etc), then Tobacco Control is just an expensive waste of time and space and money.

Roll on! Let it be expedited!

Anonymous said...

It appears tissue from a dead source has lost its ability to do DNA repair........I believe the eliptical crap they speak of is the same trash SPIN Regina benjamin was trying to toss of on all of us in her SG 2011 report and here their using the same crap.

If I remember right nnn/nnk are actually turned into inorganic arsenic in the body and you urinate it away DAILY from all sources. While your DNA repairs any damages.....Pehaps these tobacco control charletons would do better to figure out how DNA does its repairs to what their claiming causes damage.......but that kind of study could result in a cure for cancers and put the whole industry out of business!

Let us remember the body makes over 20 thousand dna repairs a day from all known sources......like walking out the door and the sun hitting you skin......or being born and breathing air!

harleyrider1978

Anonymous said...

Athought just came to me on this.

Ive the feeling when Mcfadden gets hold of this junk study he will phrase it something like this........

The amounts of n-nitrosomines these researchers sprinkled from a salt shaker onto dead rat lungs would take lil Johnny 1000 trillion years to lick up from the walls and carpets in lets say 1000 earths of smokers from all such walls and carpets in those 1000 earths to equal the dose given to those same chopped up rat lungs!

But then Lil Johnnys body would never ever let it build up,as we urinate it away everyday!

harleyrider

Anonymous said...

But then again isnt this really a case of trying to prove a synergistic effect when they take NITROUS ACID/HONO and pump it up 1500% over natural levels to try and prove the unprovable!

Ive read a bit about synergistic effects and theyve tried and tried but nothing has ever come of it and now this trash 3rd hand smoke residue.


When we take vegetative burned matter whether its tobacco or wood or leaves the smoke is still the smoke and unless your in a chemical bath in a indoor environment OSHA would have known about it and resolved to ban it.

However,we humans evolved in this natural environment with smoke and our DNA is adapt to that smoke and anything that comes from it.

And then we come to ''dose makes the poison'' and we get OSHA's statement concerning that:

Field studies of environmental tobacco smoke indicate that under normal conditions, the components in tobacco smoke are diluted below existing Permissible Exposure Levels (PELS.) as referenced in the Air Contaminant Standard (29 CFR 1910.1000)…It would be very rare to find a workplace with so much smoking that any individual PEL would be exceeded." -Letter From Greg Watchman, Acting Sec'y, OSHA

I guess in tobacco control circles a grain of salt is in fact a nuclear weapon after this BOGUS STUDY! But then again thats what all the SHS/ETS CLAIMS ARE BASED UPON......multiply the grain of salt by 100 trillion!

Ivan D said...

Chris

As you say, the actual science bit is fine. The authors on the face of it have simply repeated work linking nicotine to lung development and compared it directly to two tobacco specific nitrosamines NNA and NNK. It is not unreasonable to conclude that all three chemicals had an adverse impact on lung development according to at least some of the measures used. The theory behind the methods is pretty reasonable and unremarkable too. It should be noted that the science in this study is related to lung development and not to cancer.

So why do the study if the authors already believe that nicotine, a massively more significant constituent of “third hand smoke” than NNK or NNA is harmful to lung development? It seems pointless even within the context of the wacky world of “third hand smoke”.

One issue with “third hand smoke” of course is that nicotine residues alone are truly dull as far as anti-tobacco zealots are concerned in that they can’t be plausibly manipulated to cause enough death and destruction to satisfy. It is pretty difficult to create a big enough scare as laboratory results on lung development don’t easily translate into dead children and Nicotine isn’t a carcinogen. However some tobacco specific nitrosamines are. Here, the authors are a little sly in their reference to carcinogenicity of NNK and NNA in that they state “It is important to note that TSNAs such as NNK and NNA are recognized lung carcinogens (1) ” and then provide a reference that doesn’t directly support this statement and doesn’t mention NNA as a carcinogen.

As you point out, Sleiman’s bizarre antics with ozone and nitrous acid have opened up the possibility however implausible that these chemicals might be a threat in “third hand smoke”.

What is even more exciting to the tobacco control faithful is the fact that NNA is not generally observed in other forms of smoke (according to Sleiman because it is unstable at high temperatures) so can be hailed as a threat unique to “third hand smoke”. Bingo! We now have a potentially deadly carcinogen unique to third hand smoke and laboratory evidence that shows it has a negative effect on lung development. Hyperbolic implausible nonsense is thereby hidden behind peer reviewed plausible research. I begin to see the point of the study now.

One potential fly in the ointment is that while NNK is a known carcinogen, NNA appears not to be. I haven’t had time to research this fully but NNA is absent from the IARC list of carcinogens and it did prove very uncooperative back in the 70s when Hecht et al concluded that:

“A comparative bioassay of NNN, NNK and NNA in strain A mice indicated that NNK was more tumorigenic than NNN and that NNA was inactive” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/680735

I predict that we will see more money and rats spent on studying NNA in the immediate future. With particular focus on carcinogenicity I expect.

Karl Fasbracke said...

Can't we call the animal rights guys so they tell the THS guys not to kill any more rats for no reason?

James Higham said...

It has to become trendy again among the PCists to smoke, then the science will follow the new trend.

Chalcedon said...

Foetal lung tissue is not the same as mature lung tissue by a long way. all the normal protective mechanisms found in lung tissue are simply undeveloped in foetal lung tissue. It's no surprise they got a positive result.

Anonymous said...

This is actually good news for smokers.

Denormalization has ended and they will be once again welcome guests at every bar and Hospital on the planet.

By citing previous research findings, already in the journals consistently described as "irrefutable" by the folks on the international prostitute network, at Global Inc. [A collaboration effort, Sponsored by Pfizer and Johnson and Johnson. For a good time call Global inc.] We have sufficient proof that long term exposure to tobacco smoke [second hand] ETS, has a significant curative effect, increasing in a linear dose response relationship with duration of exposures.

Smoking a pack a day is now shown to be absolutely beneficial to a healthy lifestyle regimen, especially true for pregnant women and anyone who spends a large deal of time, messing with bed linens. The head of the IMF, recently retired, should feel much better today and who could blame him?

Congrats to the researchers on this brilliant discovery.

Well done!!!

Anonymous said...

Duh! in non-smokers and smokers!


{Because NNAL is detected in urine at very low concentrations (<1 ng/mL), a highly specific and sensitive assay is required}


Introduction Tobacco-specific nitrosamines (TSNAs) are created through the burning, curing, and fermentation of tobacco leaf. In 1989, the US Surgeon General provided a list of carcinogens found in tobacco products (1). Among that list were nine nitrosamines that can be found in chewing, smoking, and snuff tobacco. These TSNAs are considered to be highly carcinogenic and have been linked to tumors found in the lung, oral and esophageal cavity, cervix, and liver (1, 2). Because TSNAs are only found in tobacco products, their characterization is invaluable in the study of tobacco’s cancerous nature (3).

NNK (4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanone) is a TSNA found in tobacco smoke at significant amounts. Upon inhalation, NNK rapidly metabolizes into NNAL (4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanol) (Figure 1). The extraction and quantitation of NNAL in urine is therefore a useful biomarker when assessing a subject’s exposure to tobacco smoke. NNAL is not only found in smokers but in non-smokers (via second-hand smoke) as well. Because NNAL is detected in urine at very low concentrations (<1 ng/mL), a highly specific and sensitive assay is required. Although such extraction and analysis protocols have been developed, many of them require extensive and timeconsuming (up to 2-3 days) sample preparation (4).

http://www.sigmaaldrich.com/sigma-aldrich/technical-documents/articles/reporter-us/trace-level-analysis.html

Anonymous said...

They got down to picograms in this detection but they dont say what is a dosage level for harm in humans........But this is NNAL not NNA


Tobacco-specific nitrosamines (TSNAs) are created through the burning, curing, and fermentation of tobacco leaf. In 1989, the US Surgeon General provided a list of carcinogens found in tobacco products (1). Among that list were nine nitrosamines that can be found in chewing, smoking, and snuff tobacco. These TSNAs are considered to be highly carcinogenic and have been linked to tumors found in the lung, oral and esophageal cavity, cervix, and liver (1, 2). Because TSNAs are only found in tobacco products, their characterization is invaluable in the study of tobacco’s cancerous nature (3).

NNK (4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanone) is a TSNA found in tobacco smoke at significant amounts. Upon inhalation, NNK rapidly metabolizes into NNAL (4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanol) (Figure 1). The extraction and quantitation of NNAL in urine is therefore a useful biomarker when assessing a subject’s exposure to tobacco smoke. NNAL is not only found in smokers but in non-smokers (via second-hand smoke) as well. Because NNAL is detected in urine at very low concentrations (<1 ng/mL), a highly specific and sensitive assay is required. Although such extraction and analysis protocols have been developed, many of them require extensive and timeconsuming (up to 2-3 days) sample preparation
http://www.sigmaaldrich.com/sigma-aldrich/technical-documents/articles/reporter-us/trace-level-analysis.html

Harleyrider1978

Leg-iron said...

Tobacco-specific nitrosamines... are they really?

Is tobacco so genetically distinct from the rest of the plant kingdom? Are these particular nitrosamines utterly absent from any other burning plant materials including coal, gas and oil?

As a scientist, I find that hard to believe unless it can be shown that tobacco seeds came here from another planet.

As a scientist, I am also disappointed to see a scientific journal publish something with conclusions that would be more at home in the Daily Mail.

Don't they want to be taken seriously any more?