Working in factories, machinists and other workers are faced with inherent dangers. Injuries are a continued risk, and special precautions are taken to prevent them on the job. These measures can include protective clothing and equipment. There are other dangers lurking, however, and not all workers and supervisors are aware of their existence. Recent studies have shown, however, that tobacco use among workers could pose health risks to everyone within proximity, even if the smoker never lights up in the presence of others.
Tobacco Smoke and Indoor air Quality
It is falsely assumed by many smokers that as long as the smoking is done outdoors, there is no risk to others. Most people are aware that second-hand smoke is a danger to those around them, and going outside does reduce the risk of secondhand smoke exposure. But there is another problem with tobacco use that many smokers are unaware of: third-hand smoke.
Third-hand smoke refers to the smoke and nicotine residue left behind on clothes, hair, curtains, and other soft surfaces. This residue can linger for quite some time. Those who come into close contact with the smoker may be at increased risk, but even those who merely inhabit the same air space are in danger. That’s because these residues have recently been shown to reenter the air when surfaces are disturbed. Each time the smoker gets up, brushes his clothing off, or scratches his head, tobacco smoke, along with up to 7,000 chemicals, may enter the air. This can lead to severely decreased indoor air quality over time.
Health Problems Related to Third-Hand Smoke
Third-hand smoke is an issue all by itself. When inhaled, it can lead to many of the same health issues as cigarette smoke from secondhand smoke or smoking directly. Those who are exposed to third-hand smoke may be at an increased risk for allergies and asthma, according to the Mayo Clinic. The AAP also reports that third-hand smoke may also increase an infant’s risk of dying from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). While the amount of air contamination caused by third-hand smoke may seem minimal, according to the Surgeon General, there is no safe amount of cigarette smoke. This exposure may also lead to increased sick days taken by workers.
Even more disturbing, is that recent studies have shown that smoke and nicotine residues can combine with other chemicals already in the air to form even more deadly substances. According to a report by National Geographic, third-hand smoke particles can mix with the dust in the air to be breathed into the lungs. They can even settle deep into drywall and other surfaces, leading to decreased air quality, possibly for years after particle exposure.
In a factory environment, there are already often numerous chemicals, dust, and debris in the air. This can combine with third-hand smoke and lead to deadly chemical cocktails. Each time a worker goes outdoors to smoke and then reenters the workplace, he is adding to this mix over and over again.
What can be Done
Unless a worker is able to shower and change his clothes between smoke breaks, the only real way to prevent third-hand smoke exposure is to quit smoking. Some factories may implement smoking bans on the premises, but this will only go so far, as workers can still bring smoke residue from cigarettes smoked before and on the way to work. For those who want to quit, there are numerous tools available to help. These include nicotine replacement therapies, prescription medications, and e-cigarettes.
For more motivation to quit smoking once and for all, visit The Real Cost of Smoking.
Read more about the effects cigarette smoke has on the human body at The Effects of Smoking.
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