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Children Living In Apartments Exposed to Neighbors Second Hand Smoke


If you are living in an apartment, you should be aware that your smoking is not only affecting you and the people living inside your unit, but the smoke can also seep through walls or shared ventilation systems and affect your neighbors as well.

That is the finding from a new study published in the January issue of the journal Pediatrics and the researchers hope the findings will be a catalyst for stricter smoke-free laws. All tobacco smoke exposure can affect the health of children.

Matthew L. Myers, the president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, says that more than half of US children between the ages of 3 and 11 are exposed to second-hand smoke which can cause health problems such as asthma, respiratory infections, ear infections, attention-deficit disorder, and sudden infant death syndrome. The most recent US Surgeon General report stresses that even occasional exposure to tobacco smoke increases the risk for cellular damage and tissue inflammation and that each cigarette contains at least seventy chemicals that cause cancer.

Read: Secondhand Smoke Causes Both Immediate and Long-Term Health Effects
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Study author Dr. Karen Wilson and colleagues at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York analyzed data from a national survey taken between 2001 and 2006 of just over 5,000 children between the ages of 6 and 18 lived in nonsmoking homes, including detached houses, attached homes (such as duplexes), and apartments. Blood tests were performed to check for levels of cotinine, an alkaloid found in tobacco and a metabolite of nicotine.

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Compared to children to live in detached homes, those who lived in apartments have 45% more cotinine in their blood. Contaminant levels were highest in children under 12 and those living below the federal poverty level.

“We think that this research supports the efforts of people who have already been moving towards [banning smoking in multi-unit housing] in their own communities,” said Wilson. She notes that California, Washington and New York City are among those who have initiated smoking bans in certain complexes.

Read: Smoking Bans Benefit Children With Asthma

Co-author Dr. Jonathon Winickoff at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston says he believes one day “people will shake their heads in disbelief that we ever allowed smoking in buildings where children live.”

Limitations of the study include the fact that researchers couldn’t separate other potential sources of exposure, such from third-hand smoke. Even when tobacco smoke is no longer visible to the eye, it can still be absorbed by furniture, carpets, curtains, clothing, toys, and other items that children come into contact with.