by Dr. Thomas K. Lo, Advanced Chiropractic & Nutritional Healing Center
Is Secondhand Smoke Putting Your Health in Danger?
Secondhand smoke is composed of sidestream smoke (the smoke released from the burning end of a cigarette) and exhaled mainstream smoke (the smoke exhaled by the smoker. Most nonsmokers do not want to breathe tobacco smoke. Cigarette smoke contains more than 4,000 chemical compounds, and secondhand smoke contains many of the same chemicals that are present in the smoke inhaled by smokers. Because sidestream smoke is generated at lower temperatures and under different conditions than mainstream smoke, it contains higher concentrations of many of the toxins found in cigarette smoke. The National Toxicology Program estimates that at least 250 chemicals in secondhand smoke are known to be toxic or carcinogenic. When nonsmokers are exposed to secondhand smoke, they inhale many of the same cancer-causing chemicals that smokers inhale. The Surgeon General has concluded that there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke; even small amounts of secondhand smoke exposure can be harmful to people’s health.
Secondhand smoke contains a number of poisonous gases and chemicals, including hydrogen cyanide (used in chemical weapons), carbon monoxide (found in car exhaust), butane (used in lighter fluid), ammonia (used in household cleaners), and toluene (found in paint thinners). Some of the toxic metals contained in secondhand smoke include arsenic (used in pesticides), lead (formerly found in paint), chromium (used to make steel), and cadmium (used to make batteries).
Children Are Most Exposed in the Home
The home is the place where children are most exposed to secondhand smoke. Children who live in homes where smoking is allowed have higher levels of cotinine (a biological marker of secondhand smoke exposure) than children who live in homes where smoking is not allowed. As the number of cigarettes smoked in the home increases, children’s cotinine levels rise.
Both babies whose mothers smoke while pregnant and babies who are exposed to secondhand smoke after birth are more likely to die from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) than babies who are not exposed to cigarette smoke. Mothers who are exposed to secondhand smoke while pregnant are more likely to have lower birth weight babies, which makes babies weaker and increases the risk for many health problems. Babies whose mothers smoke while pregnant or who are exposed to secondhand smoke after birth have weaker lungs than other babies, which increases the risk for many health problems. Secondhand smoke exposure causes acute lower respiratory infections, such as bronchitis and pneumonia, in infants and young children. Secondhand smoke exposure causes children who already have asthma to experience more frequent and severe attacks. Secondhand smoke exposure causes respiratory symptoms, including cough, phlegm, wheeze, and breathlessness, among school-aged children. Children exposed to secondhand smoke are also at increased risk for ear infections.
Protecting Yourself and
Loved Ones from Secondhand Smoke
Protecting yourself from secondhand smoke is important because breathing even a little secondhand smoke can be harmful. The Surgeon General has concluded that the only way to fully protect yourself and your loved ones from the dangers of secondhand smoke is through 100-percent smoke-free environments. Opening a window, sitting in a separate area, or using ventilation, air conditioning, or a fan cannot eliminate secondhand smoke exposure. You can protect yourself and your loved ones by making your home and car smoke-free, asking people not to smoke around you and your children, and making sure that your children’s day care center or school is smoke-free. You can also choose restaurants and other businesses that are smoke-free, thanking businesses for being smoke-free and letting owners of businesses that are not smoke-free know that secondhand smoke is harmful to your family’s health. You can also teach children to stay away from secondhand smoke. You should avoid secondhand smoke exposure especially if you or your children have respiratory conditions, if you have heart disease, or if you are pregnant.
If you are a smoker, the single best way to protect your family from secondhand smoke is to quit smoking. In the meantime, you can protect your family by making your home and vehicles smoke-free and only smoking outside. A smoke-free-home rule can also help you quit smoking
There Is No Risk-Free Level of Exposure to Secondhand Smoke
Scientific evidence indicates that there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke. Breathing even a little secondhand smoke can be harmful to your health. It causes lung cancer. It is known that concentrations of many cancer-causing and toxic chemicals are potentially higher in secondhand smoke than in the smoke inhaled by smokers. It can cause heart disease. Breathing secondhand smoke for even a short time can have immediate adverse effects on the cardiovascular system, interfering with the normal functioning of the heart, blood, and vascular systems in ways that increase the risk of heart attack. Even spending a short time in a smoky room can cause your blood platelets to become stickier, damage the lining of blood vessels, decrease coronary flow velocity reserves, and reduce heart rate variability. Persons who already have heart disease are at especially high risk of suffering adverse effects from breathing secondhand smoke, and should take special precautions to avoid even brief exposure. It also causes acute respiratory effects. Secondhand smoke contains many chemicals that can quickly irritate and damage the lining of the airways. Even brief exposure can trigger respiratory symptoms, including cough, phlegm, wheezing, and breathlessness. Brief exposure to secondhand smoke can trigger an asthma attack in children with asthma. Persons who already have asthma or other respiratory conditions are at especially high risk for being affected by secondhand smoke, and should take special precautions to avoid secondhand smoke exposure.
Smoking is the single greatest avoidable cause of disease and death. Millions of Americans, both children and adults, are exposed to secondhand smoke in their homes. Also, in some states, it is still legal to smoke in bars.
Secondhand smoke causes premature death and disease in children and in adults who do not smoke. Nonsmokers exposed to secondhand smoke at home or at work increase their risk of developing heart disease by 25-30 percent and lung cancer by 20-30 percent.
The scientific evidence indicates that there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke.
Conventional air-cleaning systems can remove large particles, but not the smaller particles or the gases found in secondhand smoke. Routine operation of a heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning system can distribute secondhand smoke throughout a building. So only by eliminating smoking in indoor spaces can you fully protect nonsmokers from exposure to secondhand smoke.
Interested in quitting? You can access a telephone quit-line serving your area by calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1¬800-784-8669) or visit www.smokefree.gov.
If you are struggling with health issues, call the Advanced Chiropractic & Nutritional Healing Center at 240-651-1650 for a free consultation. Dr. Lo uses Nutritional Response Testing® to analyze the body to determine the underlying causes of ill or non-optimum health. The office is located at 7310 Grove Road #107, Frederick, MD. Check out the website at www.doctorlo.com.