Thursday 17 September 2020

The thirdhand smoke grift

More essential public health research from California...

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a number of challenges...

Hasn't it!

...including that many are spending more time at home than ever before. 

Domestic violence, suicide, loneliness, isolation, depression. It is a major problem.

This is a significant problem for those with neighbors who smoke. 

Not so much that, to be honest.

Smoking continues to be a problem in multi-unit housing, and while stay-at-home orders have helped to reduce transmission of COVID-19, they have also increased exposure to secondhand smoke from neighbors. 

It's just one thing after another, isn't it! You think you've dealt with one problem and then a worse problem comes along. Such as, er, wisps of smoke somehow creeping through your walls.

But the problem is more than just secondhand smoke: long after secondhand smoke has cleared, the harmful chemicals in tobacco smoke and e-cigarette vapors remain as thirdhand smoke. The chemicals in thirdhand smoke stick to dust and household surfaces, and can built up over time creating significant reservoirs of thirdhand smoke. 

A nightmare scenario!

Like other household hazards such as lead and allergy-causing dust mites, thirdhand smoke can be incredibly difficult and expensive to completely remove. It can be particularly dangerous for children as they are closer to surfaces where dust gathers such as the floor, they are more likely to put objects or hands in their mouths, and they have weaker immune systems than adults. However, while thirdhand smoke may be difficult to eliminate completely, it is possible to reduce the risk. 

Why do I get the feeling I'm being sold a cleaning product? Is this a press release from Amway?

Potential thirdhand smoke cleaning methods were examined by a group of researchers led by Georg Matt of San Diego State University. The study, "Remediating Thirdhand Smoke Pollution in Multiunit Housing: Temporary Reductions and the Challenges of Persistent Reservoirs," will be published Sept. 15 in the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research.

Yes, it's Georg Matt, the San Diego psychologist who has been trying to make 'thirdhand smoke' a thing for 16 years. I first wrote about him before I had this blog. How we laughed and yet he's managed to keep this grift going all that time. Last year, he became the director of the Thirdhand Smoke Resource Center, a state-funded (paid for by smokers) organisation that aims to “make the public more aware of thirdhand smoke”.

According to the press release, traces of nicotine that are measured in parts per billion are now "listed by the State of California as a hazardous chemical". What a world.

So what has this esteemed 'public health' researcher been doing during the pandemic?

Households were split into three groups: the first group received dry/damp cleaning (thorough vacuuming and dusting), followed by wet cleaning (professional carpet/furniture steaming and cleaning of all household linens) a month later. The second group received the opposite, and the third group received both cleaning types on the same day.

Nicotine contamination was immediately reduced in all three groups following cleaning. Regardless of cleaning method, nicotine contamination in all homes increased again during the three months following cleaning, showing that the positive effects of cleaning, while significant in some cases, are temporary.

Matt continued, "We would like to be able to tell residents that there is a simple way to remove this contamination permanently, but that is not what we found. What we can say, as a result of this study, is that there are two important steps you can take to reduce thirdhand smoke contamination and make your home safer."

First, keep household dust as low as possible. Frequent vacuuming of all soft furnishings and floors, and dusting/mopping of all hard surfaces, is the easiest, best way to reduce thirdhand smoke exposure through household dust. Second, keep surfaces that you touch often as clean as possible. Frequently wiping table tops, doors, cabinets, and chairs, and washing pillow cases, blankets, and drapery will help keep our families safe from exposure to thirdhand smoke while we are all staying at home more than ever before. 

Terrific stuff. I quite like the idea of the half-witted hypochondriacs of California obsessively scrubbing every surface of their home to get rid of trace levels of chemicals that are even less dangerous than the cleaning products they're using.


You can read the 'study' here if you want. I really can't be bothered.

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