Secondhand Smoke Bad for Kids

More proof that parents shouldn't smoke

MONDAY, Nov. 18, 2002 (HealthDayNews) -- If you're a parent who smokes, here's another good reason for you to quit the habit: Your secondhand smoke can damage your child's blood vessels.

Children subjected to cigarette smoke from one parent had up to 50 percent higher levels of a biological marker of oxidative stress in their blood, says an Austrian study being presented today at the American Heart Association's scientific sessions meeting in Chicago.

A growing body of evidence indicates that secondhand smoke breaks down antioxidant defenses, leading to problems with the endothelial-dependent function of arterial walls. Endothelial dysfunction is an early feature of atherosclerosis, which can lead to heart disease and stroke.

The Austrian researchers measured levels of a biological compound called 8-epi-PGF2alpha in the blood and urine of 158 children, aged 3 to 15. This compound forms when free radicals attack arachidonic acid, a chemical responsible for blood vessel dilation, prevention of blood clots and inflammation reaction.

Children exposed to secondhand smoke from less than 20 cigarettes a day from one parent had 35 percent to 50 percent more of the compound in their blood and 20 percent to 30 percent more of the compound in their urine than children not exposed to any parental secondhand smoke.

The more exposure to secondhand smoke, the higher the compound levels were in children. If both parents together smoked more than 40 cigarettes a day, the compound levels in children were as much as 130 percent higher in blood and 65 percent higher in urine than in children not exposed to secondhand smoke.

The study also found that mothers who smoked had a much greater impact on their children than fathers who smoked. The researchers say that may be because mothers may have closer contact with their children at home.

The study authors say these findings are important considering that nearly half of all children in the United States and Western Europe are exposed to secondhand smoke in some way.

More information

Here's where to find out more about secondhand smoke and children.

SOURCE: American Heart Association, news release, Nov. 18, 2002
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