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Device alerts people of presence of harmful cigarette residue

Category: Cancer Detection and Tumor Markers

Everybody needs lab tests to screen for the ill health effects of the environment, including that emitted by tobacco users.The American Cancer Society states that secondhand smoke is a known human carcinogen and contains at least 69 chemicals that cause cancer. In order to reduce the number of non-smokers exposed to this substance each year, Dartmouth researchers have developed a tool that can immediately detect the presence of secondhand smoke and even third-hand smoke.

The goal of this device is to help make sure that people are fully aware when they are in the presence of secondhand and third-hand smoke, which is particularly important for individuals with asthma. Third-hand smoke consists of tobacco chemicals and residue left on indoor surfaces.

Not far enough
According to the researchers, children are at a very high risk of experiencing health problems as a result of being exposed to environmental tobacco smoke. Children may develop pneumonia, bronchitis, asthma and sudden infant death syndrome as a result of being exposed to this smoke. While parents may try to do their best to keep their smoke away from their kids by going out to the porch or on the stoop, this may not be far enough to keep their children safe.

The device is about the size of matchbox car, and it is able to measure nicotine in the air and records the data on an SD memory card.

"This is a leap forward in secondhand smoke exposure detection technology and can be considered the first step in reducing the risk of health effects," said professor of chemistry Joseph BelBruno, whose Dartmouth lab conducted the research. "The intent of the project isn't to make them stop smoking, but it is to make them stop exposing their children to smoke. On the other hand, if they are worried about their children, demonstrating these exposures may be an incentive for them to stop."

The most important thing scientists want the device to show people is that just because they can't see a haze of smoke, that doesn't mean dangerous cigarette chemicals aren't still in the air. While parents are one target audience for this device, people who live with elderly individuals who may have trouble breathing, or any smokers who live with who don't use cigarettes should consider getting this device

Dangers of third-hand smoke
While most people are familiar with the dangers of secondhand smoke, third-hand may be something that individuals are less aware of. The Mayo Clinic spoke to Lowell Dale, M.D., who explained that studies have demonstrated that third-hand smoke clings to skin, clothes, furniture, drapes, walls, hair, vehicles, bedding and other surfaces. Furthermore, Dale added that children and adults may be at risk of experiencing tobacco-related health problems when they inhale or ingest these chemicals.

Dale added that third-hand smoke may be reduced by airing out rooms, opening windows and using fans. However, the best way to keep this smoke at bay is to create a smoke-free environment in the home.

Susanne Tanski, M.D., a Norris Cotton Cancer Center researcher and Dartmouth-Hitchcock pediatrician who studies the effect of third-hand smoke on children, called for greater action against third-hand smoke on the Dartmouth-Hitchcock website.

"We really need to have 100 percent smoke free homes and cars," Tanski explained. "You can't smoke in one room with the door closed and say that whole space is safe."

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