Second Hand Smoking Generates Behavioral Problem in Kids

First Posted: Dec 05, 2012 03:57 AM EST

Second hand smoking is harmful especially for babies and children as it contains more than 7000 chemicals. Nearly 100 are toxic and about 70 can trigger cancer.

Secondhand smoke (SHS) causes numerous health problems such as severe asthma attacks, respiratory infections, ear infections and sudden infant death syndrome. Previous studies have indicated how active smoking during pregnancy causes attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder in children.

A study from the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing suggests that SHS or environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) may be equally dangerous.

For this study the researchers focused on data from 646 mother-child pairs in China, where more than 70 percent of men smoke.

They noticed that nearly 25 percent of the children whose mothers were exposed to smoke exhibited behavioral problems compared to 16 percent of children of whose mothers were not exposed to smoke.

"Such findings could inform public health efforts to reduce public smoking and underscores the need for including ETS avoidance as a potential component of prenatal care among pregnant women," said lead-author Jianghong-Liu, PhD and associate professor at Penn Nursing.

With the help of Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL), a widely used 99 item scale, they assessed the behavioral and emotional problems in children.

The checklist showed that children of mothers with ETS exposure had 10 percent more prevalence of externalizing behavior problems than children of unexposed mothers. The study took into consideration factors like parental education, occupation, psychological problems and marriage status. Externalizing behavior problems included attention problems and aggression.

In addition to this, they noticed that children of passive smoking mothers demonstrated worse performance on tests of speech and language skills, intelligence and behavioral outcomes (conduct disorders).

"Given the high prevalence of ETS exposure among pregnant women in China and the far-reaching effects of child behavioral disturbance on public health outcomes, it is critical to reduce ETS exposure in order to improve the health of not only mothers and their children but that of society at large," said Dr. Liu. "The key message for pregnant women is to protect their growing fetus from exposure to secondhand smoke."

The researchers suggested that in order to validate the findings, a more longitudinal study is needed. This study gives some clarity to the relationship between ETS and behavioral disturbance in children.

This study was based on data collected from the China Jintan Child Cohort Study, led by Dr. Liu. It is an on-going prospective longitudinal study with the main aim of assessing the early health risk factors for the development of child neurobehavioral outcomes.

The full results were published online this week in the journal NeuroToxicology.

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