Friday, 11 December 2020

Thirdhand smoke - the bogeyman California deserves

For a bit of light entertainment, let's see what's happening in California...
The COVID-19 pandemic has upended our lives, turning our homes into offices, classrooms and gyms to protect us from the deadly coronavirus. The pandemic has also disrupted the time-honored real estate rituals of open houses and in-person home tours, and we are now using virtual tours and other “non-touch” experiences to find a new home. Buying a home or renting an apartment based on a virtual tour may be a positive development for the real estate industry, but consumers need to know what they may miss in a virtual-only experience.
And what is that?

Most notably, a virtual tour cannot tell us much about hazardous chemical substances in that home: pollutants in the indoor air, in the walls and built-in furniture, and on surfaces.
I suppose so. And if I told you that the author is our old friend, Georg Matt, director of the taxpayer-funded Thirdhand Smoke Resource Center, you can probably guess which 'pollutants' are on his mind.

A common source of indoor pollution is contamination from toxic chemicals in tobacco and marijuana smoke and electronic cigarette vapor. 
Here comes the science...
In a recent study of 220 apartments in San Diego County, we found nicotine residue in every unit, even homes of nonsmokers with strict smoking bans.
Wow! It seems that no one is safe and everyone is at risk. Quick, give Dr Matt some more money!
In about 10% of homes of nonsmokers, we found levels of toxic tobacco residue as high as levels typically seen in homes of active indoor smokers.
Seems unlikely, to be honest. Are sure your equipment's working properly?
Secondhand smoke contains a mixture of many different chemicals, and while we may no longer be able to detect secondhand smoke in the air after a few hours, its toxic chemicals stick to and linger in carpets, furniture, walls and ventilation systems. Over weeks, months and years of repeated smoking, these chemicals can become embedded in materials and remain in these reservoirs long after smokers have moved out. This chemical residue, also known as thirdhand smoke, includes numerous toxic substances listed under California’s Proposition 65 known to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm.

Probably. Prop 65 is notorious for including so many chemicals that virtually everything has to be labelled with a warning in California. 

With modern technology you can find trace levels of almost anything if you try hard enough. That's why 'toxins' found in tobacco smoke can be found in the homes of people who don't smoke and don't allow smoking. What is always forgotten in screwball states like California is that the dose makes the poison. 

First, we call for a comprehensive smoking ban in all multi-unit housing.

Of course you do. 

Second, we call for accurate disclosure of past smoking (including e-cigarettes and marijuana) in real estate transactions and rental contracts. For the benefit of buyers, renters, sellers, apartment managers and Realtors, we ask the California Department of Real Estate to provide education and require disclosure regarding tobacco, electronic cigarette and marijuana use in real estate transactions and for the Department of Consumer Affairs to require the same in lease agreements. Similarly, we ask the California Association of Realtors to update its seller property questionnaire to include questions about how long, how much and where tobacco products were used on a property.

That's just what California needs - more utterly pointless bureaucracy. 

Third, we call for environmental testing of thirdhand smoke toxic substances to certify homes as free of toxic thirdhand smoke residue. Such testing could allow a seller to advertise a property as free of toxic thirdhand smoke residue or alert the seller to the need to clean up the toxic legacy to provide a safe home for the next occupant. Scientifically proven thirdhand smoke testing methods for homes already exist but need to be made more affordable and accessible to consumers.

I wonder if there are any 'thirdhand smoke' 'experts' with the appropriate equipment who could deliver this service for a price? 

This is one of the grifts of the century.

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