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Second-hand Smoke and Air Pollution

The health risks linked to cigarette smoke have been widely accepted by health experts all over the world, but little has been mentioned regarding its role as a major contributor to air pollution. That is, up till now. Some new scientific data has emerged over the past few years which may implicate second-hand smoke as a potential environmental hazard.



Recent studies conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health expounded upon the deleterious effects that air pollution, specifically traffic smog, has on brain development. Children between the ages of 8-11, both from heavily polluted neighborhoods and those not exposed to traffic smog, were given IQ tests. The children who were regularly exposed to high doses of air pollution scored 3.7 points lower than those who were not.

Dr. Shakira Franco Suglia, who led the experiment, likened the aftermath of air pollution to that of excessive lead poisoning and environmental tobacco smoke. He mentions a similar report which demonstrated that the damage inflicted on a baby born to a heavy smoker is equivalent to that of lead poisoning.

In 2009 the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health ran a study investigating the consequences of exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) over a five-year period. The results were sobering. Children from New York City, Harlem and the Bronx, all areas with abnormally high exposure to PAHs, scored 4.31 to 4.67 points lower on IQ tests than children who were not exposed to PAHs.

There have been some other US studies which imply that its effect on brain development is only one factor of air pollution’s impact on our children’s health. Other side effects include low birth weight, small head circumference, miscarriage and preeclampsia. Some experts have likened the health risks of traffic smog to that of marijuana usage and second-hand smoke.

In a 2004 study conducted in Italy scientists compared the level of air pollution emitted by car exhaust versus cigarette smoke, focusing on particulate matter- microscopic units of pollution in the air we breathe. The experiment measured the amount of pollutants produced by a diesel Ford with the amount produced by three lit cigarettes within the same amount of time and conditions. The results- the cigarettes produced 10 times more particulate waste matter than the exhaust fumes.

Health experts are hopeful that with ongoing research the public will begin to include environmental tobacco smoke as a major component of air pollution, and that greener technology such as alternative energy, clean air policies and enviro-friendly city planning will reverse the effects of pollution.

Source: Second-hand Smoke and Air Pollution

Tags: How to Quit

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