Archive for May 2012
When in a tight spot, I usually drop a name or share an experience that adds credibility to my side of an argument. I have stated that I have a background in chemistry when my point needs an infusion of scientific credibility while I’m making a point to a room full of non-chemists.
I have always admired those who have a commanding knowledge of the world of chemistry. They can synthesize anything and have an abundance of handy hints from Eloise-type knowledge. (Did you know that if you’re out of dishwashing powder you can substitute tetra sodium phosphate? But don’t try this at home, just go buy Calgon.)
Chemistry, especially the organic flavor, was the albatross of my college classes. Ironically, my first job after graduation was as a chemist.
Thus, just one year removed from the “sulfur-scented” hallways of Brackett Hall, I was once again shaking beakers and assembling glassware to effectively contain exothermic chemical reactions and prevent explosions in the real world of chemical manufacturing. The environmental movement didn’t move very fast, so 10 years later, I was a bonafide chemist who belonged to the American Chemical Society.
Those chemical memories returned today as I read a study on the hazards of “third hand smoke”. It reminded me of my organic chemistry final exam because it had enough supporting information to give my chemistry professors group migraines.
The study shows that when residual nicotine from tobacco smoke is absorbed by indoor surfaces, there is a reaction with ambient nitrous oxide to produce tobacco specific nitrosamines (TSNA’s) which are carcinogenic. If you’re planning on handling TSNA’s be sure to do it in a fume hood with ventilation and wear OSHA approved personal protective equipment (nitrile gloves, goggles, impervious lab suit).
Some places where TSNA’s can be found are car interiors, furniture, clothing, restaurant menus, food and human skin. This lingering residue, called “third hand smoke”, can get into the body by absorption through the skin, by inhaling dust particles in the room or eating an apple in the room where someone has smoked.
If you are a smoker who says, “I don’t smoke around my kids / family” you should take the following precautions. Don’t smoke around food or in an enclosed space where anyone may enter later (car, private office). After smoking, bathe, wash your hair and put on fresh clothes before picking up a baby or giving lap time to a toddler. Throw away any footwear that cannot be washed.
Or, you could become a nonsmoker. A good place to start is to call the South Carolina Tobacco Quitline (1-800-QUIT NOW).
As the saying goes, where there’s smoke there’s toxic residue.