BACKGROUND:Thirdhand smoke (THS) is the persistent residue resulting from secondhand smoke (SHS) that accumulates in dust, objects, and on surfaces in homes where tobacco has been used, and is reemitted into air. Very little is known about the extent to which THS contributes to children's overall tobacco smoke exposure (OTS) levels, defined as their combined THS and SHS exposure. Even less is known about the effect of OTS and THS on children's health. This project will examine how different home smoking behaviors contribute to THS and OTS and if levels of THS are associated with respiratory illnesses in nonsmoking children. METHODS:This project leverages the experimental design from an ongoing pediatric emergency department-based tobacco cessation trial of caregivers who smoke and their children (NIHR01HD083354). At baseline and follow-up, we will collect urine and handwipe samples from children and samples of dust and air from the homes of smokers who smoke indoors, have smoking bans or who have quit smoking. These samples will be analyzed to examine to what extent THS pollution at home contributes to OTS exposure over and above SHS and to what extent THS continues to persist and contribute to OTS in homes of smokers who have quit or have smoking bans. Targeted and nontargeted chemical analyses of home dust samples will explore which types of THS pollutants are present in homes. Electronic medical record review will examine if THS and OTS levels are associated with child respiratory illness. Additionally, a repository of child and environmental samples will be created. DISCUSSION:The results of this study will be crucial to help close gaps in our understanding of the types, quantity, and clinical effects of OTS, THS exposure, and THS pollutants in a unique sample of tobacco smoke-exposed ill children and their homes. The potential impact of these findings is substantial, as currently the level of risk in OTS attributable to THS is unknown. This research has the potential to change how we protect children from OTS, by recognizing that SHS and THS exposure needs to be addressed separately and jointly as sources of pollution and exposure. TRIAL REGISTRATION:ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT02531594 . Date of registration: August 24, 2015.