Although nicotine was found, the researchers said, parental protections like home and car smoking bans dramatically reduced the amount of nicotine detected.
“One result of this research should be to include thirdhand smoke as part of parental smoking cessation education programs,” said Melinda Mahabee-Gittens, a pediatric emergency physician and clinical researcher at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, who led data collection for the project.
The amount of nicotine on children’s hands also varied by income and race, the researchers found.
Children from lower-income families had significantly more nicotine on their hands than kids from higher-income families. Children of Black parents had higher amounts of nicotine on their hands than children of white or multiracial parents.
“Low-income children and children of Black parents have the most of this involuntary exposure; this is a wake-up call to protect vulnerable children and is an overlooked part of housing disparities,” said Penelope Quintana, a public health professor at SDSU and co-author of the study.
“With COVID, everybody is spending more time indoors and more time at home. If you live in an environment where people smoke or used to smoke, you’re going to be more exposed to thirdhand smoke than you were before,” Matt added. “This study further highlights the importance of the quality of indoor environments.”
The researchers wrote they plan to continue analyzing other markers of thirdhand smoke exposure and to investigate health outcomes.
They said they hope their research will further support stricter smoking bans, remediation practices, and policies requiring real estate agents and landlords to disclose thirdhand smoke levels in homes. The study was published in JAMA Network Open.
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