Smokers Fill Rooms With Toxins, Study Finds

Airborne endotoxins hundreds of times higher in smoky environments

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WEDNESDAY, Aug. 25, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Smoke-filled rooms may contain levels of endotoxins dozens or hundreds of times greater than smoke-free rooms, says a study by researchers at Lund University in Sweden.

Endotoxins are poisonous airborne substances produced by bacteria. In normal low concentrations, endotoxins aren't a health threat. But high concentrations of endotoxins can cause serious inflammatory reactions in the respiratory tract.

This study found that levels of endotoxins were 120 times higher in an unventilated room full of cigarette smoke than in a smoke-free room. It also found that tobacco endotoxin seemed to be the most aggressive form of endotoxin.

"This can be one reason why smokers so often suffer from respiratory ailments. The fact that passive smoking entails exposure to extremely high concentrations of endotoxins is an entirely new breakthrough," research team leader Lennart Larsson said in a prepared statement.

The Swedish researchers' next step is to examine whether or not tobacco smoke endotoxins latch onto airborne dust, causing their effects to linger long after a smoker leaves the room.

The study is published in the current online edition of the journal Indoor Air.

More information

The American Association for Respiratory Care has advice about how to cope with indoor air pollution.

SOURCE: Swedish Research Council, news release, Aug. 19, 2004

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