MONDAY, July 11 (HealthDay News) -- Children exposed to
secondhand smoke in their homes face a higher risk of developing
attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, other behavioral problems
and learning disorders, a new study finds.
The research doesn't definitively prove that tobacco smoke can
harm children's brains, and it doesn't say how much smoke is too
much. However, it does add to the evidence that children may be
especially vulnerable to the effects of smoke exposure.
"They're in a developmental stage and their body is growing," potentially putting them at greater risk of disruptions to their brains than adults, said study co-author Hillel R. Alpert, a research scientist at Harvard School of Public Health's Center for Global Tobacco Control in Boston.
It's difficult to confirm whether secondhand smoke causes
children's health problems because it would be unethical to expose
kids to smoke and watch what happens to them. Instead, researchers
often must look backward, as they did in this study, and try to
eliminate all explanations but one for a link between smoke
exposure and illness.
For their study, published online July 11 in the journal
Pediatrics, researchers examined the results of a 2007 U.S. telephone survey of families that included 55,358 children under the age of 12. Six percent of them were exposed to secondhand smoke in the home.
After adjusting their numbers to improve their validity from a
statistical point of view, the researchers found that about 8
percent of the kids had learning disabilities, 6 percent had
attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and almost 4 percent had
behavioral and conduct disorders, such as oppositional defiant
Those who lived in homes with smokers were more likely to have
at least two of the conditions, even after the researchers adjusted
their statistics to account for such factors as income and
education levels of parents.
The researchers estimated that secondhand smoke may be
responsible for 274,100 extra cases of the three types of disorders
Older children, particularly those between 9 and 11 years old,
boys and poor children were most at risk of developing the
disorders as a result of smoke exposure, the researchers found.
Children with smoke exposure at home were also more likely to
receive behavioral counseling or treatment, which greatly increases
health care costs, the survey found.
"Parents should consider banning smoking from their homes," Alpert said.
No only are children vulnerable because of their physiology,
"they're also vulnerable because they do not necessarily have the
choice about being exposed to smoke or not," he added.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,
secondhand smoke has been linked to increased severity of asthma in
200,000 to 1 million children and 150,000-300,000 lower respiratory
tract infections in babies. Secondhand smoke is also linked to
increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome.
Based on the survey results, the researchers concluded that
about 4.8 million U.S. children under the age of 12 live in homes
with a smoker, which is slightly less than previous estimates.
For more on
smoke, visit the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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