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What the Heck is Third Hand Smoke?

Sara Bellum
August 14, 2009

That's what a lot of people were asking at the 2009 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Reno a few months ago. Two 16 year olds in San Antonio, Texas, worked together to try and find out. Keystone High's Sehar Anjum Salman and Jada Nicole Dalley showed that third hand smoke—all the toxic chemicals left behind on furniture, car upholstery or clothing after the cigarette smoke floats away—produces as many mutations in newborn fruit flies as second hand smoke—when someone blows their cigarette smoke near you and you breathe it in.

These photos taken by Jada and Sehar show some of the fruit flies they used for their study. Different genetic mutations can affect the color and shape of the flies' eyes, the color of their bodies, the shape of their wings, the number of bristles they have, and many other features. Compare the normal fruit fly (left) with the mutant fruit fly (right) - do you see a difference? (Hint: the mutant fruit fly is probably going to have some trouble flying).

Photo of a fruit fly.       Photo of a fruit fly.

Sehar and Jada won a First Place NIDA Addiction Science Award at the Super Bowl of science fairs for cleverly showing the dangers of third hand smoke—something scientists don't know a lot about. It makes you think twice about hanging out with smokers, even if they're not lighting up! For more information on Sehar and Jada's project, see NIDA's Web site.

Comments

The research project conducted by Jada and Sehar was fascinating. These young students are proof that America's youth are capable of making key contributions to our country now and in the future.

This site rocks!

Hey, this is about my sister!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I went to NIDA with her and my dad!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

i like the question and this is really helpful for my health project in school!

How do I stop my family from smoking and dieing??????????????????????????????? How do I stay away????????????????????? How do I not smoke????????????????????????? How do I save my family?????????????????????????How do I save me???????????????????????????? HELP ME PLEASE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Plaese send me a answer plaese!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

@sonia#1--try going here. You could find some useful info. Best way to not smoke is not to start--and you sound like you're committed to being healthy.

i like when people talk it out or tell what could happen

We had the same studies. We made cigarette smoke as a mutagen to our fruit flies..and the result was that our fruit flies developed vestigial wings a lot shorter and crippled than the picture above..and yes, the fruit has trouble with flying..

My grandmother died from lung cancer. i tell everyone not to smoke and I always feel bad for young children whose parents smoke around them. When I started my business I pledged to donate 2% of all profits to lung cancer and other cancer charities. In my industry many people smoke, and I am trying to change that. Seeing kids do amazing science work like this is inspiring! Keep it up. [commercial link removed, per guidelines]

I work with pregnant women who smoke or are exposed to secondhand smoke. There aren't many materials to educate on thirdhand smoke since its a rather new discovery. I am adding this to my web site 'Favorites' as it will give me a good visual aid to use! Congrats to these young women, keep up your work! You are making an impact on the future!

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