Third Hand Smoke a New Concern for Hotel Properties

February 24, 2017 | cleancore | Filed Under: Blog, Industry Articles, Trade Magazine stories

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On January 30, 2014, the U.S. Federal News Service and the University of California at Riverside issued the following alert:

“Do not smoke and do not allow yourself to be exposed to smoke because second-hand smoke and third-hand smoke are just as deadly as first-hand smoke. While first-hand smoke refers to the smoke inhaled by a smoker and second-hand smoke to the exhaled smoke and other substances emanating from a burning cigarette that can get inhaled by others, third-hand smoke is the second-hand smoke that gets left on the surfaces of objects, ages over time, and becomes progressively more toxic.”

This was based on the first animal study conducted on the effects of third hand smoke. So we are clear, and why this pertains to hotel properties, this study refers to the toxins and carcinogens that can be found in cigarette smoke that end up on carpet, chairs, and other surfaces in a hotel guest room. Imagine a baby playing on the carpet in a guest room that allows smoking. The possibility of that baby coming in contact with these toxins, either through touch or touching the carpet and then their eyes, mouths, or nose can be considerable. (See Sidebar)

And the negative health impacts could be considerable as well. “We studied, on mice, the effects of third-hand smoke on several organ systems under conditions that simulated third-hand smoke exposure of humans,” said Manuela Martins-Green, a professor of cell biology at the University who led the study. “We found significant damage occurs in the liver and lung. Wounds in these mice took longer to heal. Further, these mice displayed hyperactivity.”

More specifically, the researchers reported the following:

  • Contact with third hand smoke increases lipid levels (fat-like substances) in the liver and “non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, a precursor to cirrhosis and cancer and a potential contributor to cardiovascular disease.”
  • In the lungs, third hand smoke “simulate excess collagen production and high levels of inflammatory cytokines (small proteins involved in cell signaling), suggesting propensity for fibrosis with implications for inflammation-induced diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma.”

The news release ended by reporting, “although the potential risks attributed to third-hand smoke exposure are increasing, virtually nothing was known about the specific health implications of acute or cumulative exposure – until now.”

Dealing with Third Hand Smoke

If you have not heard of third hand smoke before, rest assured you are not alone. But now that you have, the question hotel administrators and housekeeping departments must ask themselves is how to deal with this problem. In many cases, they may be dealing with it already. Because many of the hotel readers of this publication are “green focused,” it is quite possible they have already taken steps to eliminate smoking in their properties entirely.

However, for those that still allow smoking in specific guest rooms or specific areas, effective and through cleaning of these areas where smoking is allowed is your best defense. The following are some ways to help eliminate or at least significantly minimize the amount of third hand smoke that accumulates in carpet, fabrics, and other touchable surfaces through cleaning:

Set up a cleaning schedule: Because we know that carpet, rugs and fabrics will absorb third hand smoke, set up a cleaning schedule for these areas based on room usage…not on so many times per year

Determining the cleaning schedule: There are no guidelines as to how often these areas should be cleaned; administrators have two ways to detect if toxins are building up. One is the “sniff test,” which can be surprisingly effective. However, there are now also sensors that measure the presence of nicotine vapors in a room area that can detect both second and third hand smoke

Actual cleaning methods: Carpet and fabric chairs can be cleaned using carpet extractors; select cleaning solutions designed to sanitize surfaces; However, what can be a more effective option is to have fabric as well as hard surfaces – floors, counters, fixtures, walls, etc. – cleaned using an aqueous ozone cleaning system instead of an extractor. These cleaning systems have sanitizing capabilities, which is why they are used to treat water, clean fruit and vegetables, as well as some medical tools.

Removal: If the decision is made to eliminate smoking in the property all together, those guest rooms where smoking has been allowed must be renovated and refurbished. This may include removing all hard and soft surfaces, wallboard from walls, HVAC systems, draperies, etc., and starting new.

As to renovating the guest room, Suzaynn Schick of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California, San Francisco says, “It’s like cleaning up after Hurricane Katrina,” in other words, there’s a lot to do.

Matt Montag is national sales manager for CleanCore Technologies


Sidebar: The 2006 surgeon general’s report says there are at least 250 poisonous toxins found in cigarette smoke, one of which is lead.