Researchers Develop Device To Detect Secondhand Smoke
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports – Your Universe Online
Researchers at Dartmouth College have developed a device that is capable of detecting secondhand smoke – a gizmo that could be a powerful new tool in those attempting to avoid exposure to tobacco.
The device, which is currently in the patent-pending prototype stage, weighs less than a cellphone and is approximately the same size as a Matchbox car, the researchers said. It uses polymer films to collect and measure the amount of nicotine in the air, then utilizes a sensor chip to record the data on a standard SD memory card.
“We have developed the first ever tobacco smoke sensor that is sufficiently sensitive to measure secondhand smoke and record its presence in real time,” Dartmouth chemistry professor Joseph BelBruno, head of the lab where the device was developed, said in a statement.
“This is a leap forward in secondhand smoke exposure detection technology and can be considered the first step in reducing the risk of health effects,” he added. The unit itself, which is also said to be capable of detecting third-hand smoke residue on clothing or other materials, is described in a paper which was recently published in the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research.
The unit could have multiple uses, according to the researchers. Parents who attempt to shield their children from cigarette smoke by going to different rooms or outdoors to partake of their habit now have a way to measure the effectiveness of those efforts. In addition, the detectors could also be installed in rental cars, hotel rooms and restaurants to help enforce smoking bans – working similarly to fire-preventing smoke detectors.
“The intent of the project isn’t to make [parents] stop smoking, but it is to make them stop exposing their children to smoke. On the other hand, if they are worried about their children, demonstrating these exposures may be an incentive for them to stop,” BelBruno said.
He added that he ultimately plans to release a lower-cost consumer version that will feature a computer processor, reusable polymer films, a rechargeable battery, and perhaps even an LED panel to provide immediate results. The research was supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Julius B. Richmond Center of Excellence, and clinical trials are scheduled to get underway this summer.
According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), “secondhand smoke is classified as a ‘known human carcinogen’ (cancer-causing agent) by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the US National Toxicology Program (NTP), and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC)… Tobacco smoke contains more than 7,000 chemical compounds. More than 250 of these chemicals are known to be harmful, and at least 69 are known to cause cancer.”