Thirdhand smoke has been linked to several negative health problems, and a new study adds another health risk in the form of diabetes.
According to a research team from the University of California, thirdhand smoke triggers insulin resistance, which is known as one of the major precursors to Type 2 Diabetes. “In type 2 diabetes, glucose does not enter the cells and increased levels of insulin, resulting from an overburdened pancreas, do nothing to facilitate glucose entry into cells for producing energy,” said study lead author Manuela Martins-Green via a news article.
Thirdhand smoke is the result of cigarette smoke getting absorbed by surfaces such as clothes, home and indoor furniture, and even human hair. This is different from secondhand smoke, which is the exhaled cigarette smoke that people may directly inhale or get exposed to. The health hazards of thirdhand smoke stem from the fact that it contains chemicals that may be harmful to humans. “This includes toxins that become increasingly toxic with age and are re-emitted into the air or react with other chemicals in the environment to produce new pollutants… Some of these pollutants are carcinogenic,” Martins-Green said.
The team used lab mice to determine the effect of thirdhand smoke on insulin resistance and other health factors. One group of mice was housed in cages that were previously exposed to secondhand smoke, while the other group was placed in clean cages. The animals exposed to thirdhand smoke were given a high-fat diet to mimic an average human diet.
Results showed that the mice exposed to thirdhand smoke had a higher degree of insulin resistance and oxidative stress. “If confirmed in humans, our study could greatly impact how people view exposure to environmental tobacco toxins,” the study lead author expressed.
The team emphasized the importance of studying about thirdhand smoke. “Children and the elderly are especially vulnerable to THS and its impact on health. Because infants frequently crawl on carpets and touch objects exposed to exhaled smoke, they are at high risk for THS exposure. The elderly are at high risk simply because older organs are more susceptible to disease,” Martins-Green added.
The study was recently published in the journal PLOS ONE.