Study: “Third-Hand Smoke” Sticks Around & Produces New Carcinogens

By Smriti Rao | February 9, 2010 12:15 pm

smokeYou might not be a smoker yourself, but hanging around people who are smoking can cause you to inhale noxious cigarette fumes. For years, scientists have cautioned against the ill-effects of such second-hand smoke. Now they’re warning about the dangers of “third-hand smoke”—the chemical traces that cling to a smoker, and that are left behind in a room where someone has been smoking.

A team of researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that remnants of a smoke don’t just inertly settle onto surfaces, they can react with a common gas (nitrous acid, which is emitted from gas appliances and vehicles, among other sources) to create carcinogenic compounds known as tobacco-specific nitrosamines (TSNAs) [Scientific American]. The study (pdf) was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The study suggests that even if a smoker puffs outside, some smoke swirls and settles in clothing and hair and is brought back into the building. With smoking inside, the left-over nicotine residue settles on surfaces like furniture, carpets, and curtains, where it can mix with common gas and turn into the carcinogenic TSNAs. Says study coauthor Hugo Destaillats: “It’s this third-hand smoke residue that is the source of the smells that we all easily perceive in a room or a car where cigarettes have been smoked, as a consequence of such places being coated with cigarette emissions…. And we found that such emissions do give rise to new pollutants when they react with non-cigarette compounds found indoors” [BusinessWeek].

To study how the carcinogenic compounds were created, scientists used samples from the glove compartment of a pick-up truck whose driver smoked in the truck regularly. They also studied a cellulose-containing paper similar to a carpet or drape and let it absorb nicotine from cigarette smoke. They then put this paper in a chamber containing nitrous acid and studied the reaction between nicotine and the nitrous acid. In both the lab and in the truck, the reaction between nicotine and nitrous acid produced substantial amounts of three types of toxic compounds…. All three compounds belonged to a group called nitrosamines, which are known to prompt tumor growth [Discovery News].

The researchers say with so many toxic compounds, young infants could be at a risk as they crawl around on rugs and come into contact with dust. However, they also caution that there needs to be more research into third-hand smoke, and note that the study doesn’t indicate that homes and couches that smell of smoke could potentially cause cancer. To deal with third-hand smoke, researchers recommend avoiding smoking in closed spaces like homes and cars. Also, in enclosed spaces that have seen plenty of puffs over the years, they suggest replacing furniture, carpet and even wallboard to cut down on the amount of TSNA exposure [Scientific American].

Related Content:
80beats: Even Discreet, Conscientious Smokers Leave a Trail of “Third-Hand Smoke”
80beats: Electronic Cigarettes Not a Safe Alternative to Conventional Cigs
DISCOVER: Smoking and Ethnicity
DISCOVER: By The Numbers: Smoke Gets in Your Hair
DISCOVER: 54: R-Rated Films Tempt Teenagers to Smoke

Image: flickr/SuperFantastic

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine
  • http://theeternaluniverse.blogspot.com/ Joseph Smidt

    Yes, even though people here have to smoke outside, it still follows them inside on their cloths and causes problems. (In my opinion.)

  • Wintoon

    Dosage?

  • http://www.flamencoandarabicpop.com Adam Solomon

    Let’s call a scare tactic a scare tactic. The study doesn’t claim that this “third-hand smoke” causes cancer, yet that piece of information is left for the end of this post, the title of which seems to suggest otherwise. After a certain point, people have to realize that their health is plenty safe, and harassing smokers isn’t going to help them live longer, much less better, lives.

  • Cory

    Yes, but if we have no one to focus our hatred upon, we will have to turn judgment on ourselves. Few are ready for that.

  • Cathy A

    I wonder if this is what I smell whenever I’m in an area around smokers, or where people have smoked, that makes me very ill. I had a short battle with my HR manager at my old office, as my cubicle was right next to the smoking exit, and I was always sick and nauseous. After I won that battle and was moved far across the room, I felt a lot better. To this day, however, I cannot be around smokers, nor can I be in enclosed areas where smokers frequent, because I become pretty darn sick.

  • Craig Gosling

    What’s wrong with “scare tactics?” Tobacco usage warnings were once considered a “scare tactics.” Turned out to be true and saved many lives. Unfortunately, some folk confuse their political agendas with real science. Too bad. Best let science and reason prevail like any good free-thinker does.

  • Kat

    Whenever I go over to a certain smoker’s house and sit on the couches, my whole body itches. My husband will sit in the same couches and have no problems. I also get the same problem when I hang around this smoker in public non-smoking places. So, I believe that the residue can cause problems. However, there are other smokers that I know and associate with, where I’ve never have that issue.

  • harleyrider1978

    The new Tobacco Prohibition

    I would like to take the time to tell the entire community about a falsehood so big that everyone who believes in freedom should be appauled.
    This falsehood is so big it resonates from historical fact forward to this day. This falsehood is so big billions of dollars have been spent to make it believable to those of us who dont take the time to look up the facts.
    We all remember reading about alcohol prohibition,but did you know there was also tobacco prohibition going on before alcohol became such a target of the last nanny staters.
    Our great grandparents lived thru prohibition and the great depression,they also lived thru tobacco prohibition.

    Heres a time line starting in 1900,dont be surprised to see the same thing playing out today nearly 100 years later.

    1901: REGULATION: Strong anti-cigarette activity in 43 of the 45 states. “Only Wyoming and Louisiana had paid no attention to the cigarette controversy, while the other forty-three states either already had anti-cigarette laws on the books or were considering new or tougher anti-cigarette laws, or were the scenes of heavy anti- cigarette activity” (Dillow, 1981:10).

    1904: New York: A judge sends a woman is sent to jail for 30 days for smoking in front of her children.

    1904: New York City. A woman is arrested for smoking a cigarette in an automobile. “You can’t do that on Fifth Avenue,” the arresting officer says.

    1907: Business owners are refusing to hire smokers. On August 8, the New York Times writes: “Business … is doing what all the anti-cigarette specialists could not do.”

    1917: SMOKEFREE: Tobacco control laws have fallen, including smoking bans in numerous cities, and the states of Arkansas, Iowa, Idaho and Tennessee.

    1930: hitler institutes laws against smoking.This one you can google.

    Now onto the falsehood……

    We have been told for years by smoke free advocates that second hand smoke is the cause of everything from johnnys ear ache to cousin ED’S lung cancer. But wheres the proof!!!

    Remember they claim 50,000 deaths a year yet,there are no bodys not even mass graves of the dead to second hand smoke.We await the names of these victims.

    A simple stroll down historys road say 10 years or so and we start to get at the truth……

    A federal Judge by the name of osteen got a case dropped in his lap in North Carolina,the case was that of EPA’S study on second hand smoke/environmental tobacco smoke.The judge an anti-tobbaco judge by reputation spent 4 years going thru the study and interviewing scientists at EPA and came to the conclusion :

    JUNK SCIENCE

    ”EPA’s 1992 conclusions are not supported by reliable scientific evidence. The report has been largely discredited and, in 1998, was legally vacated by a federal judge.Before its 1992 report, EPA had always used epidemiology’s gold standard CI of 95 percent to measure statistical significance. But because the U.S. studies chosen[cherry picked] for the report were not statistically significant within a 95 percent CI, for the first time in its history EPA changed the rules and used a 90 percent CI, which doubled the chance of being wrong.

    This allowed it to report a statistically significant 19 percent increase [a 1.19rr] of lung cancer cases in the nonsmoking spouses of smokers over those cases found in nonsmoking spouses of nonsmokers. Even though the RR was only 1.19–an amount far short of what is normally required to demonstrate correlation or causality–the agency concluded this was proof SHS increased the risk of U.S. nonsmokers developing lung cancer by 19 percent.”

    So here we find that second hand smoke was made a political scapegoat by EPA.Lets not forget how EPA has reworked the global warming studys just this last summer. Where its top scientists paper was rebuked because it didnt carry the EPA’S stand that global warming was real.

    The political shenanigans surrounding SHS/ETS go deep not only with the government and its health agencies but also to the big pharmaceutical companies and non-profit orginizations aka ACS,ALA,AHA and a meriad of others. All lobbying for smoking bans and their weapon of choise Propaganda paid for by big pharma and tax dollars. Studys made to order that second hand smoke is deadly. Take a memory note here too,over 250 studys on shs/ets have found it safe.

    Yet a simple look at the chemistry shows us that its:

    The Chemistry of Secondary Smoke About 94% of secondary smoke is composed of water vapor and ordinary air with a slight excess of carbon dioxide. Another 3 % is carbon monoxide. The last 3 % contains the rest of the 4,000 or so chemicals supposedly to be found in smoke… but found, obviously, in very small quantities if at all.This is because most of the assumed chemicals have never actually been found in secondhand smoke. (1989 Report of the Surgeon General p. 80). Most of these chemicals can only be found in quantities measured in nanograms, picograms and femtograms. Many cannot even be detected in these amounts: their presence is simply theorized rather than measured. To bring those quantities into a real world perspective, take a saltshaker and shake out a few grains of salt. A single grain of that salt will weigh in the ballpark of 100 million picograms! (Allen Blackman. Chemistry Magazine 10/08/01). – (Excerpted from “Dissecting Antismokers’ Brains” with permission of the author.)

    Now, how odd that when we search the smoke free activists sites not one of them mentions that water vapor and air are the main components of second hand smoke. Is this just a fluke or an outright omission to further their political healthscare against the general public.

    The last informative tid bit I have for you is what does OSHA have to say about all this secondhand smoke stuff.

    Here is where it gets interesting,it seems John Banzhaf, founder and president of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) decided to sue OSHA to make a rule on shs/ets not that OSHA didnt want to play ball with him,its just that the scientific facts didnt back up a rule to start with.

    Now for a rule to happen Osha has to send out for comments for a period of time and boy did the comments fly in, over 40,000 of them….Osha has whats called PEL’S and limits for an 8 hour period of exposure to chemicals in indoor environments…[epa is in charge of outdoor air]

    This is where second hand smoke really becomes a joke,remember its nearly 94% water vapor and air…..now lets get to the facts of toxicology and dose makes the poison:

    According to independent Public and Health Policy Research group, Littlewood & Fennel of Austin, Tx, on the subject of secondhand smoke……..

    They did the figures for what it takes to meet all of OSHA’S minimum PEL’S on shs/ets…….Did it ever set the debate on fire.

    They concluded that:

    All this is in a small sealed room 9×20 and must occur in ONE HOUR.

    For Benzo[a]pyrene, 222,000 cigarettes

    “For Acetone, 118,000 cigarettes

    “Toluene would require 50,000 packs of simultaneously smoldering cigarettes.

    Acetaldehyde or Hydrazine, more than 14,000 smokers would need to light up.

    “For Hydroquinone, “only” 1250 cigarettes

    For arsenic 2 million 500,000 smokers at one time

    The same number of cigarettes required for the other so called chemicals in shs/ets will have the same outcomes.

    So,OSHA finally makes a statement on shs/ets :

    Field studies of environmental tobacco smoke indicate that under normal conditions, the components in tobacco smoke are diluted below existing Permissible Exposure Levels (PELS.) as referenced in the Air Contaminant Standard (29 CFR 1910.1000)…It would be very rare to find a workplace with so much smoking that any individual PEL would be exceeded.” -Letter From Greg Watchman, Acting Sec’y, OSHA, To Leroy J Pletten, PHD, July 8, 1997

    WHAT! DILUTED BELOW PERMISSABLE LEVELS

    By the way ASH dropped their lawsuit because OSHA was going to make a rule and that rule would have been weak and been the law of the land,meaning no smoking bans would ever have been enacted anywhere,simply because an open window or a ventilation system would have covered the rule.

    Let me also tell you that the relative risk for shs/ets by the SG report of 2006 was a 1.19 ”EPA study is whats used to call it a carcinogen”……milks is a 2.43 and that glass of chlorinated water your about to drink is a 1.25 yet these things aren’t determined to be a carcinogen….The gold standard in epidemiology is a 3.0….Now had the SURGEON GENERAL included 2 other shs/ets studys the relative risk for disease from shs/ets would have been nearer a.60-.70 meaning it would have a protective effect against ever getting disease.

    But,what each of us has is years and years of exposure and the knowledge that our kids all grew up around shs and generations of others,yet we are here alive not dead from a lousy 30 minute exposure to shs as stanton glantz tries to claim…..thats another story and its just as crazy as all the rest of smokefree’s claim about shs/ets.

    Oh! have you heard the one about ”laugh” thirdhand smoke or third hand drinking.
    Like I said their claims border beyond that of any reasonable persons commomsence.

    The next time you see a healthscare claim
    consider the source.Especially if it comes from a government or non profit agency!

    disclaimer; I am a victim of the smoking bans like tens of millions of smokers and non-smokers who liked to hang with their friends in a public accommodation. We have in effect lost our freedom of association because of the bans.
    Property owners have lost their right to their property rights by these laws based upon psuedo-science and propaganda.I dont work for any tobacco company nor do I get anything but the satisfaction that I can make the smoke free activists cringe when the truth gets out.
    Harleyrider1978

  • Nancy

    Amazing. When I was child I got ill just once a year, and always right after a wonderful gathering which included several smokers. Never made the connection, until I started using my head. You really are ignorant if you think all your scientific sounding baloney proves anything but your ignorance. However fireplace smoke and barbecue smoke is worse than cigarette smoke. They have many of the same mind blowing chemicals and more. So sorry that you are obviously addicted to something and aren’t free to quit. You also probably are unable to smell the strong irritant, pyridine, that is produced when nicotine burns, because of the destructive effects of smoking on the inner lining of the nose. You are probably unable to appreciate one of the most delicious smells on earth: fresh air. You can smoke (not a free act) all you want as long as you keep the stinky stuff on your own private property. Darned stuff has a tendency to wander though. Fear of cancer is not the main reason people object. There are many worse and immediate effects.

  • Kevin M

    There is no shortage of evidence to confirm; what the researchers are reported to have created is already in the smoke and it has always been the crux of the anti-smoker fear campaign when utilizing the term; “tobacco specific carcinogens”. Tobacco specific carcinogens are in fact nicotine specific carcinogens and they are the only aspect of cigarette smoke which sets it apart from the smoke produced by burning any organic material; like the campfire with the kids or a fire place used on romantic evenings nestled up buy the fire or even those scented candles on the table to enhance a good meal. Or a meal prepared on a hickory smoke grill.

    The nitrosomines NNN, NNK NAB and NAK, [only NNK is a human carcinogen BTW] are produced by a direct fired tobacco barn which introduces diesel exhaust to nicotine. In recent years this has been avoided by modern flu curing processes which are designed to use offset heating.

    They are right in one respect that it is an avoidable compound, when we see by avoiding the contamination of nicotine and the use of selective brands and eliminating the use of roots and stems, reductions of “tobacco specific carcinogens” and histamines when reduced below detection levels they are all but eliminated. Canada produced the safest tobacco on the planet as was demonstrated by legitimate physical testing and in place of speaking in triumph and promoting the new tobacco, they started to promote the term “there is no such thing as a safe [or safer ] cigarette”, they went to war with the farmers driving at this time 90% of them out of business by flooding the market with cheaper and more dangerous imports sold at a fraction of what it costs to produce domestically.

    At the same time the Medical mafia is shamelessly promoting [the gummy patchy chewy nicotine stuff] what are known now as “medical treatments” and alternatives to smoking which contain the same nicotine you find in cigarettes. The curious thing is that nicotine has a combustion point which is below its boiling point, meaning few of those “addicted to nicotine” actually get to inhale very much of it after it is burned, the alternatives however have been judged safe for use, at the same time all this third hand nicotine knowledge is to be front page news?

    That is how much the medical charities and governments of the world really want to cure cancers. Let alone how much they want to ease the non-smokers fears of second hand smoke. There is an offer on the table as we speak to pay 3.75 million dollars by the state of California to produce a study such as the one in the article, to convince you that you can get cancer off a toilet seat, or when walking past someone who smokes. Third hand smoke will be their next big promotion. Are you going to buy some of that trash too.

    http://www.trdrp.org/fundingopps/callrfp.asp

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2369279?ordinalpos=1&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_DiscoveryPanel.Pubmed_Discovery_RA&linkpos=1&log$=relatedarticles&logdbfrom=pubmed

    If you continue to compare one group of people to another and only publish the negative aspects of the “other”, in comparison to the so called normal majority. Eventually you come to a place where “other” means other than human. We have seen this all before and judged people promoting the same methods of misanthropy at Nuremberg, why are we not arresting them today?

    The same epidemiological methods were once used to demonstrate the superior members of the gene pool. Would any of those “public health experts” and medical charities who declare the science of second hand smoke “irrefutable” today, like to admit their process and methods also proved that whites are superior to blacks and Jews?

    This is about power creating knowledge and those foolish enough to entitle that knowledge deserve all that flows from it.

  • Kevin M

    If you look at the original research beyond this press release, you will find that the researchers claimed there is no trace of the nitrosomines in cigarette smoke. This is a play on words and speaks volumes in reference to the fabled term “4000 deadly toxins” found in cigarette smoke.” The researchers are not lying when they say there is no measured amount found in cigarette smoke because it is classed as “below levels of detection” when it is in the region below 50 nana-grams per cubic meter of air [Billionths of a gram]. They fail to elaborate this perspective consistently when implying the fear of “children at risk”. [They call this emotional blackmail, for those of you out of the loop] In the accumulation of the smoke “solid particulate portion”, as sediment which increases the volume of the contents, bringing them now above the levels of detection. In measured amounts a child would have to lick a floor the size of an entire football field every day for 60 years before a level of harm could be established, in compliance with standard safe level evaluations, we use in respect of every other chemical known to man, except tobacco smoke and its so called deadly ingredients.

    Lobby groups and ad agencies love to twist the meanings of a word or phrase to give it new meaning.

    Here are some of the more obvious examples you have been treated to for the past decade with plain English translations;

    1] “There is no safe level of tobacco smoke.”

    A chant which offers no information.

    There is no safe level of anything including water, air or sunlight.

    In scientific perspectives and logic;

    The measured level of “risk” is exclusively derived from comparing those expossed to those not expossed. If you know what cigarette smoke smells like, you have already been expossed, so it is not possible to increase the risk you have already sustained, by additional exposures to a factor with no safe level. So where does this risk come from? Only as a composite of therology outside the boundaries of legiotamate science. In mathematical terms it is not possible to demonstrate increased risk, it is said to be “significant” when logic would imply it can not exist for those who know what cigarette smoke smells like. For those who don’t know what it smells like, who could demonstrate a level of risk, those who have succeeded in avoiding the risk or the smell so far, prove only that it obviously is avoidable.

    2] “Half of smokers will die prematurely because of their habit.”

    The other half will die beyond the average age of death, just like everyone else.

    3] “There is no such thing as a safe cigarette”

    In addition to the news found in evaluation of number one we could also observe they could be much safer however such a move would reduce the values of current numbers and reduce the salable value of the term in ad agency dollars.

    4] “450,000 preventable deaths.”

    They are the assumed current number of those dying exclusively from so called ” smoking related diseases. Regardless of smoking. If we want to test the validity of those claims and see if any reductions or the promised immortality actually could occur, we could do a ratio comparison to a time when 60% of the population smoked in 1960.

    With more than double the number of those smoking for many years at that time and a constant decline up until today, we should already have seen declines in so called “smoking related” numbers which actually grew six fold in the interim. Lets check the math. In 1960 total mortality from all causes with double the smokers was 900,000 a year. Using the current 450,000 number we would have to agree that all cause mortality resulted exclusively from smoking in 1960?

    You could just go on and on….

    If you listen you could easily question all that the medical mafia promotes with its health driven denormalization campaigns in “us versus them” spew, however the most important factor in getting to the truth is tried and true in the medium that delivers your fears.

    The one thing the mainstream media and its ad agencies, who produce a good measure of the “Politically Corrected” evening news, fear most today;

    Consider the source and follow the money.

  • http://discovermagazine.com Will G

    Thank God! There is intelligent life out there after all. Congrats to Harleyrider and Kevin G
    for doing their in-depth research. The scientific method is alive and well after all, despite all the evidence. I have a BA in clinical Biochemistry, a BA in clinical Microbiology, and a Masters degree in Medical Technology and have been watching all the pseudo-science concerning tobacco smoke come out for years. Just shaking my head in disbelief. About the various other comments: Ever heard of anecdotal evidence? I personally know two people who have asthmatic attacks whenever they see a person with a cigarette in their hands. Lighted or not! Always remember the definition of a Puritan. “A person who wakes up at night in a cold sweat, realizing that somewhere someone is enjoying themselves.”

  • Kevin

    One of the topics the anti-smoker crowd will always avoid like the plague [pun intended] is the topic of medicinal smoke. They tell us that the principles of dilution and evacuation by environmental controls don’t work. Yet if we look at the safeguards in place in a safe room? When a contaminant is released, the most efficient means of evacuating that toxin from the room is to inject particulate fog and evacuate it with air continuously until the toxin is no longer in the room but now trapped in the particulate that left before it had a chance to settle on other solid objects that remain in the room.

    In a smoke free environment the toxicity of airborne contagions become much more deadly, because there is a reduced level of particulate to collect them. In the reductions of indoor ultra fine particulate the same is true. Your dosages of a much more dangerous form of particulate than is found in cigarette smoke are tremendously increased.

    Cigarette smoke if you can follow the consistent portion of legitimate unbiased research over the years, is evacuated by bodily functions over time. This is why they tell you if you quit, over time your health risk will eventually align with those of a non smoker. Ultra fine particulate such as coal and diesel particulate remains within the body and accumulates, because the lungs are powerless to evacuate it.

    Black lung is entirely evident during autopsy whereas cigarette smoke is virtually undetectable, with no connection to the pictures in your mind that Public health has been painting for years [smokers lung?], a surgeon can’t tell if a person smoked for decades or if they never smoked by visual inspection. They have no problem at all telling that someone worked in a coal mine or in a diesel engine repair shop. Just like asbestos it becomes an irritant which leads to breathing ailments and the eventual total destruction of your lungs with no viable treatment, beyond making you more comfortable as the process of destruction continues.

    Utilizing tobacco smoke particulate to reduce the risks of both viral infections and ultra fine particulate exposures, is a taboo subject because the Public Health entourage doesn’t feel comfortable. They in fact become quite violent in their reactions, to what they consider damaged thinking.

    Irrespective of their emotions and comfort levels, the logic and science is squarely on the side of increased health risks by a tremendous degree, in a smoke free environment. If tobacco smoke is thought to cause the deaths of 3000 in a 300 million population as a lifetime risk perspective [requiring a lifetime of exposures at very high levels in order to see even one] and the same population produces by a shorter process of exposure and immediate effect 35,000 deaths per year by common flu alone. Think of all the other things in your life that could cause mortality by inhalation exposures. The odds that someone in a crowded bar or stadium might cough or sneeze and infect a greater number of those present, than would be possible in the same venue with cigarette smoke present, requires a pretty twisted evaluation process, devised in corruption and emotional trash to argue against.

    So do the Public Health “experts” in their current rendition, offer increased protections or increased risk, when the predominance of what they study and profess, is based in purely emotional analysis, as opposed to science and legitimate unbiased observational skills?

    We already know the answer to that one. What is missing is a way to divide the soothsayers emotion tested rhetoric, from the professionals with something real to say, so we can judge fairly among the many “the sky is falling” promotions, understanding which one should be taken seriously, or as the growing norms are demonstrating today in reaction to all alarm bells; we simply shrug and open another beer.

    Clearly the self regulation of mainstream media groups, considering the sources of their funding in the financially conflicted behemoth ad agencies, is simply not working out. Currently we are trapped within an environment where politics guides scientific oversight and emotionally enhanced promotions, are destroying the very sustenance of personal and parental autonomy.

    Vote them all out; allowing the medical mafia and big pharma/ big Oil prosecutions to begin.

  • Kevin

    The world has not gone mad around us, the opportunists are simply growing more efficient in the production of propaganda.

    “Pragmatism is a philosophical movement that includes those who claim that an ideology or proposition is true if it works satisfactorily, that the meaning of a proposition is to be found in the practical consequences of accepting it, and that impractical ideas are to be rejected.” [WIKI et al]

    If you subscribe to a fact that includes “emotional perceptions” as a part of science, or the psychological reality [what you can make people believe] combined with the reproducible form of science, in observing real objects and interactions; you can devise fraud and call it theoretic reasoning, to sell pretty much anything you like.

    If there is a financial interest that enriches the process and its progress, those ideologies and the formed reasoning go out the window in favor of a more practical approach.

    Arrests and Convictions.

  • Doug

    I’d like to weigh in with an anecdote & some facts. When I was a teenager I worked as a janitor in a hospital in the days before the smoking ban. One of my jobs was to scrub the nicotine off the walls and baseboards. The cleaning water eventually became yellowish, acrid smelling, and started to irritate my hands (I began to use rubber gloves). [A recent MSDS gives the pH of nicotine as 10.2!]

    Later I found out that the LD50 for nicotine is
    Oral, mouse: LD50 = 3340 ug/kg
    Oral, rat: LD50 = 50 mg/kg
    Skin, rabbit: LD50 = 50 mg/kg
    Skin, rat: LD50 = 140 mg/kg

    Cancer is not the issue — no one has proven that cancer is caused by nicotine — but nicotine is a deadly substance, period.

  • http://discovermagazine.com Will G

    Doug is absolutely right! Nicotine is a poison. Specifically – An alkaloid insecticide. First identified in 1828 by German chemists and labeled as such. It is manufactured by higher plants presumably to keep bugs off.

    Then mammals evolved (assuming one excetps evolutionary theory) and began eating said plants. I guess it didn’t bother them that much, since they encorporated it into their biochemical structure. Usually in its oxidative state as Nicotinic Acid. Absolutely one of the most important biochemicals in mammalian bodies (Nicotine Adenine Dinucleotide).

    If Doug is that sensitive to nicotine, I would strongly suggest he stay far away from herbifors (cows, sheep, chickens, etc.) Also he might want to avoid excessive amounts of green veggies. This leaves him pretty much restricted to corn and perhaps wheat. Of coure, he will probably get pellagra. A rather nasty skin condition that results in mental deterioation and death. The American southwest and northern Mexico had a big problem with this prior to the nineteenth century.
    Always bare in mind the name of oxidated nicotine – Nicotinic Acid (Also known as Niacin – Conrad Elvehjem 1937). And Please bare in mind the dosage effect. I cannot think of a single chemical that isn’t deadly in sufficient amount and under the right conditions – water, salt, sugar,oxygen, you name it.

    I too worked in a hospital before the smoking ban. I can’t think of a place that would have a more diverse variety of cheicals on its walls. How does Doug know it was only nicotine he was scrubbing off? By the way, was he using pure water – no soap, detergent, or disinfectant? Come on people, let’s get over this phobia of chemicals. We’re made of them.

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