Secondhand smoke is a toxic cocktail consisting of poisons and carcinogens. There are over 4000 chemical compounds in secondhand smoke; 200 of which are known to be poisonous, and upwards of 60 have been identified as carcinogens.
Harmful Effects to Health
Second-hand smoke causes many of the same diseases as direct smoking, including cardiovascular diseases, lung cancer, and respiratory diseases. These diseases include:
- General: overall increased risk; reviewing the evidence accumulated on a worldwide basis, the International Agency for Research on Cancer concluded in 2004 that "Involuntary smoking (exposure to second-hand or 'environmental' tobacco smoke) is carcinogenic to humans."
- Lung cancer: the effect of passive smoking on lung cancer has been extensively studied. A series of studies from the USA from 1986–2003, the UK in 1998, Australia in 1997 and internationally in 2004 have consistently shown a significant increase in relative risk among those exposed to passive smoke.
- Breast cancer: The California Environmental Protection Agency concluded in 2005 that passive smoking increases the risk of breast cancer in younger, primarily premenopausal women by 70% and the US Surgeon General has concluded that the evidence is "suggestive," but still insufficient to assert such a causal relationship. In contrast, the International Agency for Research on Cancer concluded in 2004 that there was "no support for a causal relation between involuntary exposure to tobacco smoke and breast cancer in never-smokers."
- Renal cell carcinoma (RCC): A recent study shows an increased RCC risk among never smokers with combined home/work exposure to passive smoking.
- Passive smoking does not appear to be associated with pancreatic cancer.
- Brain tumour: The risk in children increases significantly with higher amount of passive smoking, even if the mother doesn't smoke, thus not restricting risk to prenatal exposure during pregnancy.
- Ear, nose, and throat: risk of ear infections.
- Second-hand smoke exposure is associated with hearing loss in non-smoking adults.
- Circulatory system: risk of heart disease, reduced heart rate variability, higher heart rate.
- Epidemiological studies have shown that both active and passive cigarette smoking increase the risk of atherosclerosis.
- Lung problems:
- Risk of asthma.
- Cognitive impairment and dementia: Exposure to second-hand smoke may increase the risk of cognitive impairment and dementia in adults 50 and over.
- During pregnancy:
- Low birth weight
- Premature birth (Note that evidence of the causal link is only described as "suggestive" by the US Surgeon General in his 2006 report.)
- Recent studies comparing women exposed to Environmental Tobacco Smoke and non-exposed women, demonstrate that women exposed while pregnant have higher risks of delivering a child with congenital abnormalities, longer lengths, smaller head circumferences, and low birth weight.
- Worsening of asthma, allergies, and other conditions.
- Risk to children:]
- Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). In his 2006 report, the US Surgeon General concludes: "The evidence is sufficient to infer a causal relationship between exposure to second-hand smoke and sudden infant death syndrome."
- Lung infections
- More severe illness with bronchiolitis, and worse outcome
- Increased risk of developing tuberculosis if exposed to a carrier.
- Crohn's disease.
- Learning difficulties, developmental delays, and neurobehavioral effects. Animal models suggest a role for nicotine and carbon monoxide in neurocognitive problems.
- An increase in tooth decay (as well as related salivary biomarkers) has been associated with passive smoking in children.
- Increased risk of middle ear infections.
- Skin Disorder
- Childhood exposure to Environmental Tobacco Smoke is associated with an increased risk of the development of adult-onset Atopic dermatitis.
- Overall increased risk of death in both adults, where it is estimated to kill 53,000 non-smokers per year, making it the 3rd leading cause of preventable death in the U.S. and in children. Another research financed by the Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare and Bloomberg Philanthropies found that passive smoking causes about 603,000 death a year, which represents 1% of the world's death.
Harmful effects to EnvironmentEdit
Tobacco smoke is the main source of indoor pollution and the easiest to eliminate completely. Opening a window isn’t enough; the deadly gasses in secondhand smoke can linger for hours even when windows are wide open. Smoking in another room, using air purifiers or ventilation systems offers no protection against second-hand smoke. After the cigarette is extinguished, the second-hand smoke remains in the environment. It settles on food, clothing, skin, carpets, curtains, in the air, etc., and remains there for days, and even weeks. Other effects on the environment are that most ventilation systems are designed to limit the accumulation of carbon monoxide and reduce the odor of smoke, without eliminating it. Simply opening the car window will not eliminate cigarette smoke and can even create a back draft that draws the smoke back in and directly onto the passengers. There are also a buildup of tobacco related waste including empty cigarette packs (2 billion / year), cellophane wrap, packaging, boxes and shipping cartons, foil wrappers, and over 50 billion cigarette butts that have non-biodegradable filters. The burning of tobacco releases nicotine, particulates, carbon monoxide and sublimated tobacco tars into the air.
Cigarette smoke contains about 4,000 chemicals. Carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, methane, and nicotine are some of the major components, with lesser amounts of acetone, acetylene, formaldehyde, propane, hydrogen cyanide, toluene, and many others.
The combustion of tobacco produces a type of smoke that contains more than 4000 substances and chemicals, which are made up of particles and gases that can be inhaled and absorbed into the body.
Many of these chemicals are extremely dangerous, not only for the smoker but also for those people nearby.
The International Cancer Investigation Agency has identified over 50 carcinogenic substances in tobacco smoke. 11 of the substances are proven to cause cancer in humans, 7 probably cause cancer in humans and 49 of the substances cause cancer in animals but have not yet been proven to in humans.
Other substances found in environmental tobacco smoke are certainly poisonous and most definitely none are beneficial to a person's health.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has classified environmental tobacco smoke as a Group A carcinogen. This means that there is more than enough evidence to prove that tobacco smoke, whether it is inhaled by the smoker or the non-smoker, can cause cancer in humans.
Mainstream and sidestream smoke both contain a huge number of toxic, poisonous and carcinogenic substances.
Surprisingly, sidestream smoke (smoke that escapes the end of a burning cigarette) contains much higher concentrations of many of the chemical compounds.
What's more is that the particles that make up sidestream smoke are much smaller than those of mainstream smoke. This means that these smaller particles that float in the air, will be inhaled much deeper into the lungs and will be able to reach the furthest and deepest corners within a person's respiratory system and therefore causing much more damage.
For example, cadmium, a known lung cancer causing substance, is found in concentrations that are six times higher in the smoke that is inhaled by passive smokers as opposed to the smoke that is inhaled directly by the smoker through the cigarette.
Even so, although 85% of the smoke that is present in a smoke-filled room is made up of sidestream smoke, passive smokers still have a lesser risk of suffering the effects of the harmful substances contained in tobacco smoke.
Three of the main components of environmental tobacco smoke are: •Nicotine - an addictive drug as powerful as cocaine or heroin. It alters the brain as well as a person's behaviour and mood. It is also used in insecticides. •Tar - a cancer causing substance that damages the lungs. •Carbon monoxide - a gas that replaces some of the oxygen in the body that is needed for the lungs to function properly. Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas, which is also found in car exhaust fumes. Feasibility of a device that filters secondhand smoke
Current technology: Cigarette filters (used in the cigarette for firsthand smoke)
A cigarette filter has the purpose of reducing the amount of smoke, tar, and fine particles inhaled during the combustion of a cigarette. Filters also reduce the harshness of the smoke and keep tobacco flakes out of the smoker's mouth.
There are many tiny, invisible perforations in the filter. As smoke flows through the filter, quite a bit of air flows through the perforations and mixes in with the smoke. With each drag, the smoker receives a lot of air and much less smoke, and therefore less tar and nicotine. This results in a mild decrease in the amount of carcinogens, but filtered cigarettes should not be considered in anyway more safe or "better" for a person than unfiltered cigarettes- they represent an enormous health risk that can contribute to lung cancer, heart attack, stroke, and emphysema, among others.
It does not affect the amount of secondhand smoke released however.
Current technology: Smoke air purifier
A smoke air purifier is especially designed to reduce the contaminants caused by cigarette and cigar smoking in an enclosed area, such as a room, a house, or a business. Some systems use filters and others are filterless systems. Some units are large enough and powerful enough to operate through the entire home or building. Other units are small and portable, just right for a single room or an open area.
Tobacco smoke emits carcinogens and offensive odor particles into the atmosphere. The smoker may not be able to smell the odor because he has become so used to it. But to others, especially those with allergies and asthma, the smell can be unbearable. A smoke air purifier can help to cleanse the atmosphere, but probably won't completely eliminate all the particles. Those who are sensitive to such smells may still be susceptible to the lingering fumes caused by smoking. Second-hand smoke is a dangerous health hazard so individuals should stay away from it as much as possible.
Smokers can choose to light up outside or in a special room of the home. But that special room absolutely must be equipped with a smoke air purifier. The remainder of the house may also need a purifying system to eliminate floating particles. Purifiers come in two basic categories: those that need filters and those that are filterless. Many popular smoke air purifier systems use advanced carbon or HEPA filters. HEPA stands for "high efficiency particulate arresting." An electrostatic system uses opposite electrical charges to trap particles onto a collection grid. Ionic systems emit ions into the air which causes particles to clump together and fall onto furniture, walls, or the floor. Ozone units emit minute amounts of this trace gas into the atmosphere.
A purifying system performs one or more of the following functions: 1) the unit traps airborne particles; 2) it breaks down chemical compounds; or 3) it destroys odor-causing molecules. When smoking particles drift into the atmosphere, they get into people's clothing and hair. The microscopic beasties cling to furniture, draperies, and other items in the home or business. While a smoke air purifier can trap airborne particles, break down compounds, and destroy odor-causing molecules, the unit can do nothing about the clinging beasties. These will continue to create a foul and unhealthy smell.
The advanced technologies being applied to smoke air purifier systems help to reduce the amount of carcinogens and odor-causing molecules in the atmosphere. But even these advanced systems cannot totally eliminate the smelly particles that cling to the items in a room or to a person.
Feasibility: The technology to filter out particles from secondhand smoke certainly does exist, but whether it would be possible to implement this technology into masks/devices for use in daily life is unknown. The device to do so does exist in the form of smoke air purifier systems, but these are relatively large pieces of equipment that cannot be carried around. A similar device on a much smaller scale might be possible to create, but whether or not this would effectively remove any smoke from their air a person is breathing in is unknown.