Why It’s Important To Know If Your Home’s Previous Occupants Were Smokers

January 5, 2016  |  



When compiling a list of questions to ask before moving into a new home or apartment, it’s probably unlikely that you’ll inquire about the previous occupants and their smoking habits, but perhaps you should.

According to a recent study published in the journal of Nicotine & Tobacco Research, third-hand smoke residue can collect in homes and apartments and can have an effect on people even after the active smoker is long gone. Even worse, this harmful residue cannot be removed by everyday cleaning routines like dusting and vacuuming. Nicotine is a pretty sticky substance, which clings to walls, carpets, and counters.

Third-hand smoke “can hang around for up to about a year and a half,” said Thomas Northrup, Ph.D., an assistant professor at the McGovern Medical School at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. “Over that time, it can turn back into a gas, and you can inhale it or absorb it into your skin.” He adds that “third-hand smoke is essentially aged secondhand smoke.” According to the study, this residue contains suspected human carcinogens, allergens, irritants and inflammatory agents.

Thankfully, there are steps that can be taken to remove third-hand smoke from homes and apartments. According to Glamour, vinegar and water solutions can remove this residue from “smooth, non-porous surfaces like countertops and some floors.” However, depending on how bad the situation is, the study’s co-author Georg Matt, Ph.D. recommends carpets, carpet padding, ceiling tiles and drywall, if possible.

“At a minimum, deep cleaning and removal of carpets, carpet padding, and fabrics is needed,” he said.

And of course, to avoid this, Matt recommends asking questions before moving in to avoid ending up this situation.

“Always require that your real estate or rental agent discloses if previous owners or renters smoked,” Matt said.

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