Children who live in apartments where no one smoked inside are more likely to be exposed to tobacco smoke than those who live in stand-alone houses, researchers said.
About 85 percent of children from families who didn’t smoke inside their apartments had blood proteins indicating exposure to cigarette smoke, compared with 70 percent in houses, according to a report released today by the journal Pediatrics. About 5,000 U.S. children were studied.
Childhood exposure to cigarette smoke causes more-severe asthma, respiratory infections and ear maladies, and slows lung growth, according to the National Cancer Institute, in Bethesda, Maryland. There is no safe level for exposure to secondhand smoke, and neighbors’ smoke may travel through ductwork, windows, and ventilation systems, the authors wrote.
“Banning smoking in multiunit dwellings by property owners or by regulation would be the obvious way to mitigate contamination,” wrote the scientists, who were led by Karen Wilson, a pediatrician at the University of Rochester Medical Center, in Rochester, New York.
The increase in exposure was greatest in white children, who had triple the amount of contine, a metabolite linked to nicotine, if they lived in apartments rather than houses. Black children in apartments had 46 percent more exposure.
Adult nonsmokers in apartments may also be exposed to secondhand smoke, the authors said. Because tobacco fumes drift, the source of a person’s exposure may not be a dwelling unit immediately neighboring that individual’s home, according to the report.