Second-hand smoke tied to children's behavior problems

Wed Jul 13, 2011 10:17pm EDT
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NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Children exposed to secondhand smoke at home may be more likely to have learning and behavioral problems, according to a U.S. study.

Of more than 55,000 U.S. children younger than 12 years, 6 percent lived with a smoker -- and those children were more likely to have ADHD compared to children in smoke-free homes, the study, published in Pediatrics, found.

Even after accounting for a number of possible explanations, such as parents' income and education levels, secondhand smoke was still tied to a higher risk of behavioral problems, said Hillel Alpert at the Harvard School of Public Health, one of the researchers.

The findings don't prove a smoke-filled home is to blame, because there are other factors that the study didn't look at that may also be to blame -- but it may give parents yet another reason to keep their homes smoke-free.

Health experts already recommend that children be shielded from secondhand smoke for health reasons, since it can increase their risk of respiratory infections, severe asthma and sudden infant death syndrome.

"The key message for parents is to protect their children from exposure to secondhand smoke," Alpert told Reuters Health.

One other factor to consider is that children exposed to secondhand smoke often had intra-uterine exposure as well, which has been linked to increased risks of learning and behavioral problems.

It's also possible that parents who smoke have a greater history of learning or behavior problems themselves compared with non-smoking parents.

The results are based on a 2007 national survey of parents of 55,358 children younger than 12. The finding that 6 percent lived with a smoker translates into nearly 5 million U.S. children exposed to secondhand smoke at home, according to the research team.   Continued...

<p>A man smokes outside the Taipei railway station January 13, 2010. REUTERS/Pichi Chuang</p>