Researchers have detected presence of a cancer-causing toxin in hookah smoke.
A new study published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention found that hookah smoke contained benzene, a toxic chemical with a sweet odour that has long been known to raise the risk of leukaemia.
For the study, researchers looked at 105 hookah smokers and compared them with 103 non-smokers. Urine samples were tested for levels of S-phenylmercapturic acid (SPMA), a metabolite of benzene, both before and after a hookah-only smoking event.
Both active and passive hookah smoking contributed to the toxic chemical exposure. People who smoked hookah had four times higher levels of the SPMA levels; while non-smokers had two times higher levels of the metabolite.
The findings helped eradicate the popular belief that hookahs are safer than cigarettes or other forms of tobacco.
"In contrast to what is believed, hookah tobacco smoking is not a safe alternative to smoking other forms of tobacco," researcher Nada Kassem from the San Diego State University, said in a news release.
"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."
Hookahs, also called water pipes deliver flavoured tobacco through water. Experts always discourage people against hookah smoking as it is not as safe as it is considered to be.
Hookah smoking, according to the Centers for Disease Control Prevention (CDC), is as toxic as cigarettes and delivers carbon monoxide, heavy metals and several cancer-causing compounds. While the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimated that smoking hookah delivered 100 to 200 times volume of smoke than a single cigarette.
Benzene, which is produced mainly during the burning of wood, is widely used to make lubricants, dyes, drugs, plastics, rubbers and pesticides. It is, one of the chemicals, which has been classified as carcinogenic to humans by The International Agency for Research on Cancer, the specialised cancer agency of WHO located at Lyon in France.
- Headache, dizziness, confusion
- Paralysis, coma, convulsions, rapid heart rate, tremors, rapid breathing
- Brain damage, cardiac arrest
- Blurred vision
- Menstrual irregularity
- Reduced immunity
- Irritation to skin and eyes
- Acute myeloid leukaemia
- Aplastic anaemia, a condition where the red and white cells production is reduced
- Low birth weight