A recent survey looked at children’s exposure to secondhand smoke and found that approximately 3 million children 6 years old and younger still are exposed regularly to secondhand smoke in their homes.
Administered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, this study of more than 14,000 households showed that exposure to secondhand smoke occurred more often in lower-income, lower-education households.
The survey also found that smoking by visitors accounted for less than 1 percent of exposure. Parents, on the other hand, accounted for 90 percent of the secondhand smoke to which children were exposed.
Exposure to secondhand smoke is a serious health risk, and children, whose bodies are still developing, are the most vulnerable. Children who are exposed to secondhand smoke are more likely to have asthma attacks, respiratory tract infections and ear infections. In addition, exposure increases the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome in
children under 1 year old.
Even though progress has been made, the numbers are still alarming. In an earlier study, EPA estimated that exposure to secondhand smoke increases the number of episodes and severity of asthma symptoms in up to 1 million children each year. The agency also estimated that
secondhand smoke is responsible for 150,000 to 300,000 lower respiratory tract infections in infants and children under 18 months old. This results in 7,500 to 15,000 hospital stays each year.
A number of other studies, including one by the California EPA in 1997, support EPA’s earlier findings.
If secondhand smoke is a problem in your home, take these steps to help reduce your child’s exposure.
1. Do not smoke in your home or car. Do not permit others to do so, either. Moving to another room or opening a window does not protect your children from exposure because smoke stays in the air and on your clothes.