Did you know that your skin just being exposed to thirdhand smoke is as harmful as cigarette smoking itself? In fact, a new study published in biomedicine has found that it releases chemicals capable of getting absorbed into the skin thereby causing awful skin diseases.

Thirdhand smoke, THS consists of residual tobacco smoke pollutants that are left over on surfaces and in dust after a cigarette has been extinguished. They can get stuck on walls or surfaces for hours, days, or even weeks and expose both smokers and non-smokers alike to great harm. While they can be subtle and almost go unnoticed, the researchers found they could be dangerous.

According to the study authors, THS being exposed to the skin could increase oxidative stress as well as biomarkers associated with skin diseases such as contact dermatitis and psoriasis

Moreover, when it comes to THS getting absorbed into the system, it follows 3 major routes: through the nose, mouth, and skin. However, the skin is the largest organ exposed greatly to THS. This then prompted the team to investigate if exposure of the skin to THS accompanies unusual health effects. Importantly, this is the first study to investigate the potential effects of THS being exposed to human skin.

Researchers from the University of California in Riverdale involved a total of 10 healthy, non-smoking participants. The study was conducted in the Human Exposure Lab at the San Francisco General Hospital. The participants were given a cloth soaked in THS to put on for 3 hours. Then, they were told to run on a treadmill for about 15 minutes each hour to produce sweat. This was to increase the rate at which the THC is being absorbed into the skin. On the other hand, there was the ‘control group’. For this group, they performed the same task, only while wearing THS-free cloth. Next, the researchers collected and analyzed urine and blood samples taken before and after exposure to THS at regular intervals. 

For the result, the researchers found that the urinary biomarkers of oxidative damage to DNA, lipids, and proteins were increased upon acute THS exposure and remained high even after exposure was stopped.

Although, they noted that the exposure of the skin to THS was brief and did not outrightly cause skin irritation or skin disease. Pursuing this further, they found it did present with markers related to early-stage activation of contact dermatitis, psoriasis, and an increase in other skin conditions. Most of which are similar diseases found among cigarette smokers.

“If you buy a used car previously owned by a smoker, you are putting yourself at some health risk. If you go to a casino that allows smoking, you are exposing your skin to THS. The same applies to staying in a hotel room that was previously occupied by a smoker.” says Sakamaki-Ching, lead author of the study.

In light of this, it’s easy to see the harmful effects associated with the skin being exposed to THS. Besides molecular initiation of inflammation-induced skin diseases, the researchers found THS could also cause cancer and atherosclerosis. The researchers suggest that these findings will be of utmost value to healthcare workers in advising their patients on the harmful effects of THS exposure.

In conclusion, the study authors see the need to evaluate the residue deposited by electronic cigarettes on the skin as well as health outcomes associated with long-term exposure of the skin to THS in larger participants.

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