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Thirdhand Smoke Research Consortium

TRDRP funds next phase of California Research Consortium on Thirdhand Smoke Exposure and Human Health Effects

After peer review of an initial funding period that resulted in groundbreaking research on thirdhand smoke, and its dissemination by the research team (see below), TRDRP and its Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) are continuing funding for the THS Consortium. The term thirdhand smoke (or THS) refers to tobacco smoke toxins and contamination that persist long after a cigarette has been smoked, which may adversely affect human health. These toxic substances may remain on surfaces or as gas emissions in the environment, yielding new secondary pollutants. Toxic compounds so far identified in THS include many that have already been identified as toxic or cancer-causing agents.

In the first phase (2011-2014) of the Consortium's work, these TRDRP-funded researchers pioneered research on Thirdhand smoke generation, characterization, evolution, and its potential health effects on human health. Some highlights are listed below:

                Policy Impact:

Scientific evidence provided by the research contributed to the passage of California legislative bill AB 1819 that prohibits smoking tobacco at all times in the homes of licensed family child care homes and in areas where children are present.

                Scientific Discoveries and Dissemination:

1. The THS Consortium Research team published 22 scientific research articles on various aspects of THS research. For complete list of publications, please click here.

2. Thirdhand smoke research and its findings were highlighted at the Society of Research on Nicotine and Tobacco (SRNT) in February, 2014.

3. Media coverage of the issue of thirdhand smoke and the consortium’s research findings have increased substantially.  For a list of media coverage of Consortium research, please click here.


From the UC Newsroom: After the smoke clears, danger still lurks

The research consortium, led by Neal Benowitz at UCSF and comprised of investigators with backgrounds in a broad range of disciplines from across California, is continuing to further its research on characterization, exposure and health effects of tobacco smoke. Lara Gundel at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory serves as the scientific coordinator with other participating scientists drawn from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, UC Riverside, the University of Southern California, and San Diego State University. The team is focusing on the following research objectives:

  • Chemically characterize THS in order to identify potentially hazardous or toxic constituents that may be present.
  • Characterize relevant and specific biomarkers that could serve as diagnostic indicators of exposure and demonstrate quantitation of human exposure levels to THS.
  • Provide scientific evidence either for or against clear and significant health risks to humans as a result of exposure to THS.
  • Design an evidence-based approach to THS exposure risk policies, policy implications and issues.
  • Disseminate any evidence related to the health risks of THS to the California tobacco control stakeholders as well as general public, including any recommendations on potential approaches to risk elimination.

The outcomes of this research effort will contribute to understanding and reducing exposure of people to the disease-causing toxicants in THS.

Participating consortium investigators:

  • Dr. Neal Benowitz, University of California San Francisco (Principal Investigator)
  • Dr. Lara Gundel, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Scientific Coordinator)

Principal Investigators of collaborating research projects:

  • Dr. Peyton Jacob, UCSF
    “THS Exposure Assessment Analytical Chemistry Laboratory” 
  • Dr. Suzaynn Schick, UCSF
    “Controlled Exposure of Human Subjects to Thirdhand Smoke”
  • Dr. Hugo Destaillats, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
    “THS chemistry: Generation,Characterization and Remediation” 
  • Dr. Bo Hang, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
    “Genotoxicity and Novel Biomarkers of Thirdhand Smoke”
  • Dr. Prudence Talbot, UC Riverside
    “Cytotoxicity and  Stress Induction by Thirdhand Smoke”
  • Dr. Jonathan Samet, University of Southern California
    “THS: Quantifying Risks and Developing Policies for Control”
  • Dr. Manuela Martins-Green, UC Riverside
    Impacts of Thirdhand Smoke on Public Health" 
  • Drs. Penelope Quintana and Georg Matt, San Diego State University
    Persistent Thirdhand Smoke Toxicants in Indoor Environments"  

Pictured at right (clockwise from upper left): THS consortium investigator Suzaynn Schick works on the cigarette smoke aging chamber in her lab; Lara Gundel, an expert in environmental physical chemistry of secondhand smoke and THS, coordinates the overall scientific activity of the consortium; Neal Benowitz leads the consortium as the principal investigator.

Dr. Suzaynn Schick works on the cigarette smoke aging chamber in her lab
Dr. Lara Gundel, who will coordinate the overall scientific activity of the consortium
Prof. Neal Benowitz will lead the consortium as principal investigator