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Third Hand Smoke Can Lead to DNA Damage, Study Reports

Update Date: Jun 21, 2013 02:19 PM EDT

Smoking is one of the leading causes of preventable deaths throughout the world. Not only do cigarettes harm the smoker, they can also harm non-smokers nearby. Research studying the effects of second hand smoking has reported that second hand smoking can lead to health complications, such as cancer. Now, a new study suggests that third hand smoking, which is when smoke and cigarettes residues are left behind on surfaces, can lead to DNA damage.

Researchers from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory reported that they discovered for the first time the dangerous side effects of third hand smoking on human cells. The researchers studied two in vitro assays, which allowed them to investigate the cells and possible damages from third hand smoke. The two assays were the Comet assay and the long amplicon-qPCR assay. Researchers tied third hand smoke to DNA strand-breakage and oxidative DNA damage. These effects can lead to gene mutations.

"This is the very first study to find that third hand smoke is mutagenic," co-author of the study, Lara Gundel said according to Medical Xpress. Gundel is a Berkeley Lab Scientist. "Tobacco-specific nitrosamines, some of the chemical compounds in third hand smoke, are among the most potent carcinogens there are. They stay on surfaces, and when those surfaces are clothing or carpets, the danger to children is especially serious."

The researchers also found that chronic exposure caused more DNA damage as opposed to acute exposure. The researchers had exposed acute samples to the smoke of five cigarettes in 20 minutes. The chronic samples were exposed to cigarettes that were smoked for 258 hours over 196 days. The researchers kept the chamber ventilated for 35 hours.

This study was one of the first major studies to look into the effects of third hand smoke that resulted form the California Consortium on the Health Effects of Thirdhand Smoke. This consortium started in 2010 and is funded by the Tobacco-related Disease Research Program.

The study, "Thirdhand smoke causes DNA damage in human cells," is available in the journal, Mutagenesis

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