Pop quiz: If you sampled the air in an empty college classroom where smoking is not permitted, what is the last thing you’d expect to find?
If you guessed “cigarette smoke,” you’re in good company. Peter DeCarlo, an air quality researcher at Drexel University in Philadelphia, would have agreed with you.
But when he examined the air from the unoccupied room, he discovered that 29 percent of the tiny particles suspended within it could be traced to the residue of cigarette smoke.
“This was a surprising finding, and not something that we were even looking for when we started making the measurements,” DeCarlo recounted in a video describing his research, which was published last week in the journal Science Advances. “It made us dig deeper and try to understand how a nonsmoking classroom could have so much influence from tobacco smoke.”
There was nothing special about the classroom. It had about 25 student desks, painted brick walls and a tile floor. It was also conveniently located across the hall from a laboratory that contained an aerosol mass spectrometer, which identifies and measures the tiny components of air.
The classroom was hooked up to a heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system that drew in air from the outside. DeCarlo and his colleagues had set out to compare the air inside the room with the air outdoors.
They found that most of the aerosols they detected in the classroom originated from the outside. In most cases, the concentrations in the room were lower than they were outdoors, thanks to the HVAC’s filtration system.
But there was one exception. Among the four types of organic aerosols identified by the mass spectrometer, one was found mainly in the classroom. And that aerosol contained the residue of cigarette smoke.
The researchers called it “third hand smoke.”
Unlike second hand smoke, which lasts for only a short time after a cigarette is consumed, third hand smoke can linger in the environment by sticking to clothing, upholstery, walls and other surfaces. When they get a chance to react with certain types of chemicals — including ammonia, which humans emit — they can become airborne again, ultimately winding up in aerosols that we breathe.
Studies in mice have shown that thirdhand smoke can affect growth and damage the immune system, but the full effects on human health are not yet clear.
How did this third hand smoke get into this classroom? The entire building was subject to nonsmoking rules, so indoor smoking was deemed “highly unlikely,” according to the study. In addition, the experiment was conducted in August, when the classroom wasn’t in use.
DeCarlo and his team noted that the room was about 65 feet from an outdoor balcony, where “illicit smoking activity” was known to occur. They added that “several smokers” shared an office in the same HVAC zone as the classroom. These two sources were deemed the most likely culprits.
To see what was happening to these thirdhand smoke particles in the classroom, the researchers took a Pyrex container and blew cigarette smoke into it. A day later, they pulled outdoor air through the container, allowing it to react with the smoke residue left behind.
They found that compared to the pure outdoor air, the air that went through the Pyrex vessel contained much more thirdhand smoke.
If third hand smoke was present in this one classroom they happened to study, it’s probably in lots of other places too, DeCarlo and his colleagues wrote.
For starters, other rooms that share the same ventilation system would be in jeopardy. “A room occupied by a smoker can effectively expose the other occupants served by the same HVAC system to (third hand smoke), even if they do not share space directly,” they wrote.
And the same thing could be happening in apartment buildings, offices, hotels, rental cars, airplanes and other shared spaces, they said.
“It’s a new exposure route that has not been previously identified,” DeCarlo said.
New research shows 1 in 7 U.S. adults have tried electronic cigarettes. That’s an increase but it’s offset by a small decline in the number currently using the devices.
About 3 percent of adults were current users in 2016, down from almost 4 percent in 2014, the study found. Adults who said they have tried vaping at least once reached just over 15 percent in 2016, versus 12.6 percent in 2014. That means an estimated 33 million U.S. adults have tried e-cigarettes, said University of Iowa researcher Dr. Wei Bao, the lead author.
The decline in e-cigarette use among current smokers and increased use among former smokers suggests that some adults are using them to quit smoking tobacco. But a rise in use among adults who never smoked tobacco is concerning, Bao said.
The study was published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that turn liquid often containing nicotine into an inhalable vapor. They have been sold in the United States for about a decade.
The devices have been touted as a way to help smokers quit traditional tobacco products but solid evidence of that is lacking, and uncertainty over their long-term health effects has raised concerns about their use, especially by teens. Under federal law, sales are banned to those under 18.
Previous data show recent use among U.S. teens declined in 2016 after rising in previous years. In 2016, 11 percent of U.S. high school students and 4 percent of middle schoolers said they’d used the devices during the previous month.
In the new study, researchers analyzed annual U.S. government in-person surveys for 2014 through 2016 that asked Americans aged 18 and older questions about health-related habits. About 100,000 adults were involved.
Current use included adults who use e-cigarettes daily or just some days; ever-use included those who frequently used the devices in the past and adults who have only tried them once.
Lora Lee “Tootie” Shuler was the daughter of the late Cora (Parson) Wirick and George William Wirick of Windber, PA. She retired from P.R. Hoffman of Carlisle. Lora loved music and playing her organ and most of all spending time with her family. She was preceded in death her husband of 39 years Paul R. Shuler who passed away February 2015, 2 brothers, 4 sisters, and 1 stepdaughter.
She is survived by one daughter, Deborah Barkley, one stepdaughter Connie VanMeter, stepson Paul R. Shuler, Jr., stepson Michael Shuler, a granddaughter Deanna Rhinehart, a grandson Darrin Wiser, and 5 great-grandchildren.
A Memorial Service will be held Saturday May 26, 2018, at 11 a.m., at Chapel Point in the Henry Chapel, 770 S. Hanover Street, Carlisle, PA.
Kernan D. “Casey” Colyer of Silver Spring Township, Cumberland County, passed away peacefully on May 2, 2018, following a long struggle with lung disease. His wife Ellen was by his side.
Casey was born on August 7, 1937, in Denver, Colorado, to the late Clinton C. and Grace (nee Deems) Colyer.
Casey graduated from North High School in 1955. By profession, he was an electronics technician and had a very exciting career working extensively for defense contractors on various military projects. In the 1960’s he worked for Lockheed Corp. and participated in many missile launches at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, then at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. In 1972 he joined the defense unit of Texas Instruments, Inc. as a field service representative. He had the opportunity to ride along on several Navy ships in Southeast Asia, maintaining equipment supplied by TI. He and Ellen also enjoyed living in Frankfurt, Germany for a total of nine years while Casey worked with the US Air Force. After that he spent 5 fascinating months in Israel working with the Israeli Air Force. His last assignment before retiring in 1999 was at Holloman Air Force Base in Alamogordo, NM, supporting the Stealth Fighter Jets.
After retiring he and Ellen moved back to her home state of Pennsylvania and lived just outside of Carlisle for 18 years. They relocated to Silver Spring Township in July of 2017. Casey volunteered with the Cumberland County Red Cross assisting people who were displaced by fires or other disasters. He was named Volunteer of the Year in 2007. He was very proud of the work he did and greatly admired the contributions of the Red Cross.
Funeral services will be held at a later date. Details will be forthcoming.
Arrangements have been entrusted to the Hoffman Funeral Home & Crematory, 2020 W. Trindle Road, Carlisle, PA.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made in Kernan’s honor to the Cumberland County chapter of the American Red Cross at 79 E Pomfret St, Carlisle, PA 17013, and/or the American Lung Association at 3001 Old Gettysburg Road, Camp Hill, PA 17011.
To sign the online guestbook, please visit www.HoffmanFH.com.
Joe E. McCleary, 71, of Shippensburg, died Monday, May 14, 2018.