Greatest Hits 2 – Smokers Have More Chemicals

Last week I looked at the ingredient list of a Big Mac bun and a chocolate bar and how ‘scary’ they all seemed. This week I want to look at an ingredient list that really should scare you.

What does formaldehyde have in common with the radioactive heavy metals lead-210 and polonium-210, as well as with hydrogen cyanide (also known as Zyklon B), vinyl chloride, arsenic, benzene and a host of other delights?  They all are present in cigarette smoke.

“Cigarette smoke is a toxic cocktail of over 7,000 chemicals, including 250 poisonous and 70 carcinogenic compounds.”

The link above will lead you to a series of articles about the various chemicals that appear in tobacco smoke. I’ve pulled various quotes from those articles. What follows is a list of quotes and statistics directly from those various pages:

  • Lead-210 (Pb-210) and polonium-210 (Po-210) are poisonous, radioactive heavy metals that research has shown to be present in tobacco smoke…Inhaling lead-210 and polonium-210 increases the risk for lung cancer. In fact, because the buildup of radiation a person receives over many years of smoking can be huge, researchers feel that lead-210 and polonium-210 in cigarette smoke are significant factors for lung cancer in smokers.
  • Hydrogen cyanide, a colorless, poisonous gas, is one of the toxic byproducts present in cigarette smoke…Under the name of Zyklon B, hydrogen cyanide was used as a genocidal agent during World War II. While no one would willingly breathe hydrogen cyanide into their lungs, smokers do it multiple times with every cigarette they inhale. And because hydrogen cyanide is present in secondhand smoke, nonsmokers are also at risk of breathing in this poison when they are exposed to cigarette smoke.
  • Benzene is present in cigarette smoke and accounts for half of all human exposure to this health hazard.
  • Arsenic-containing pesticides used in tobacco farming persist in small quantities in cigarette smoke.
  • Cigarette smoke is laden with formaldehyde as well.
  • Tobacco companies discovered that adding ammonia to the cigarette manufacturing process helps convert bound nicotine molecules in tobacco smoke into free nicotine molecules. This process is known as “freebasing.” Similar to the chemical process of freebasing cocaine, the result is an enhanced effect of the drug on the user.
  • Researchers at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colorado, have recently identified three previously undetected pesticides in cigarette smoke. The pesticides are:
    – Flumetralin – This chemical is known to be toxic to humans, and is carcinogenic. It’s an endocrine disruptor, and its use on tobacco plants has been banned in Europe.
    – Pendimethalin – This is another endocrine disrupter that targets the thyroid specifically. Pendimethalin is carcinogenic and toxic to humans.
    – Trifluralin – Like the other two pesticides mentioned, trifluralin is an endocrine disrupter, is toxic to humans and is carcinogenic.
  • Tobacco-specific N-nitrosamines (TSNAs) are known to be some of the most potent carcinogens present in smokeless tobacco, snuff and tobacco smoke…Two of these chemical compounds, NNN and NNK, have been classified as Group 1 carcinogens.
  • Also known as chloroethylene, ethylene monochloride, or monochloroethylene, vinyl chloride is a flammable clear gas or a liquid with a mildly sweet odor. Vinyl chloride is a man-made product. It does not occur naturally in the environment. Today, vinyl chloride is most commonly used to make a polymer called polyvinyl chloride (PVC). PVC is found in various plastic products, including wire insulation and packaging materials.
  • Nicotine is a colorless, poisonous chemical, derived from the tobacco plant. Nicotine is highly addictive…When a person inhales cigarette smoke, the nicotine in the smoke is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream and starts affecting the brain within 10 seconds. This results in a number of chemical reactions that involve hormones and neurotransmitters such as adrenaline, dopamine, and insulin. Within minutes, the nicotine level in the blood drops and the smoker begins to experience feelings of nicotine withdrawal, prompting the urge to light up again. Smoking “pleasure” in reality is simply the relief felt when the nicotine level in the bloodstream is replenished…The nicotine content in tobacco products varies widely…One drop of pure nicotine is enough to kill a person.

This list is only a fraction of what information is available on this one site alone. Those who know me, know that I’m violently antismoking, so this choice of topics will be no surprise. However, why am I putting it on a green blog on flooring?  Well, beyond arming non-smokers with some info to help encourage folks to quit, I thought to help salesmen put VOC fears into perspective. I don’t want anyone who chooses to smoke to ever complain about formaldehyde emissions from wood flooring. Or really any emissions out there. Your complaints don’t have a puff to stand on.

Reposted on May 30, 2017.

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