Third-hand smoke damages DNA

You don't have to be a smoker yourself to face the effects of risks smoking -- and you don't even have to inhale a cloud of secondhand smoke, either.

Cigarettes leave behind a toxic residue that lingers long after the smoker and his cloud are gone. And now, new research of the effects of smoking shows how this residue could actually damage human DNA.

And all you have to do is touch it.

The residue is called THIRD-hand smoke. It's why smokers and their homes, cars, clothing, etc. all smell like smoke even if they're trying to quit and haven't lit up in weeks.

This lingering smell is caused by something called tobacco-specific nitrosamine, and it contains some of the most dangerous carcinogenic compounds of the cigarette.

Unlike smoke, which blows away, tobacco-specific nitrosamine can build up on surfaces -- and then you can inhale it in dust or absorb it through your skin when you touch it.

And that's when you problems begin -- because in the new study, researchers found that the residue left over from chronic smoking can actually cause breaks in DNA strands and oxidative damage to the DNA.

The problem with tobacco-specific nitrosamine is that it is notoriously difficult to get rid of. It can linger for months, or even years, after the smoker is gone, and it can't always be washed, vacuumed or even painted away.

If you're an ex-smoker yourself, there's no inexpensive answer here to remove the effects of smoking from your home. Consider replacing the carpet, drapes and other coverings and have a professional come in to clean the walls before re-painting if you haven't done so already (especially if there are young children in your home).

It might seem like a lot of work. But if you want the true benefits of a smoke-free lifestyle for yourself and your family, it's worth the effort and the expense.