Third-hand smoke exposure and health hazards in children

Monaldi Arch Chest Dis. 2013 Mar;79(1):38-43. doi: 10.4081/monaldi.2013.108.


Smoking still represents a huge public health problem. Millions of children suffer the detrimental effects of passive smoking. An increasing number of countries have recently issued laws to regulate smoking in public places. Instead, homes remain a site where children are dangerously exposed to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS). The combination of tobacco smoke pollutants which remain in an indoor environment, the so-called 'third-hand smoke' (THS), represent a new concept in the field of tobacco control. THS consists of pollutants that remain on surfaces and in dust after tobacco has been smoked, are re-emitted into the gas-phase, or react with other compounds in the environment to form secondary pollutants. Indoor surfaces can represent a hidden reservoir of THS constituents that could be re-emitted long after the cessation of active smoking. Human exposure to THS pollutants has not yet been thoroughly studied. Infants and children are more prone to the risks related to THS exposure than adults because they typically spend more time indoors and have age-specific behaviours that may expose them to potential health hazards from THS. Further investigations are warranted to study the health effects of THS relevant to different exposure pathways and profiles. It would also be very important to evaluate how THS may affect the lung development through the in utero exposure during the pre-natal life. We aimed at reviewing recent findings published about THS, with special reference to the effects on children's health.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Hazardous Substances / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution / adverse effects*


  • Hazardous Substances
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution