Hookahs Deliver Toxic Benzene in Every Puff

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Hookahs Deliver Toxic Benzene in Every Puff
Hookahs Deliver Toxic Benzene in Every Puff

TUESDAY, Nov. 25, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Many young people consider hookahs a hip and safer way to smoke, but a new study finds fumes from the water pipes contain the toxin benzene, which has been linked to an increased risk of leukemia. These findings were published online Nov. 21 in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

Researchers analyzed levels of S-phenylmercapturic acid (SPMA) -- a metabolite of benzene --- in the urine of 105 hookah smokers and 103 nonsmokers exposed to smoke from the water pipes. After an event in a hookah lounge, SPMA levels were four times higher than normal in hookah smokers and 2.6 times higher than normal among people who had attended but hadn't puffed on a hookah. After a hookah-smoking event in a private home, SPMA levels were two times higher among hookah smokers, but normal among nonsmokers.

"In addition to inhaling toxicants and carcinogens found in the hookah tobacco smoke, hookah smokers and nonsmokers who socialize with hookah smokers also inhale large quantities of charcoal combustion-generated toxic and carcinogenic emissions," study author Nada Kassem, Dr.P.H., R.N., associate director of the Center for Behavioral Epidemiology and Community Health at the San Diego State University, said in a journal news release.

Kassem believes that "because there is no safe level of exposure to benzene, our results call for interventions to reduce or prevent hookah tobacco use, regulatory actions to limit hookah-related exposure to toxicants including benzene, and include hookah smoking in clean indoor air legislation."

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