Environmental Smoke Exposure Linked to Illness
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - There is ample evidence that smoking is bad for your health. It is also known that exposure to environmental tobacco smoke may lead to respiratory illness in children. But according to researchers in Hong Kong, the ''evidence o
To determine the effect of adult exposure to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS), a survey was conducted among nearly 4,500 male and 730 female self-described nonsmoking police officers in Hong Kong.
Almost 40% of the female survey respondents and about 20% of the male survey respondents were exposed to ETS at home.
In the workplace, ETS exposure was reported by 80% of both males and females.
In addition, ``more than 70% of both men and women had two or more smokers at home and at work, and about half had three or more co-workers who smoked nearby,'' according to lead author Dr. Tai Hing Lam from the University of Hong Kong's department of community medicine.
The study's results, published in the August 9th issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association, suggest that the number of smokers found in the home and at work correlates with an increasing risk of respiratory symptoms, such as throat problems, and increased cough and phlegm.
The investigators found that men who were exposed to ETS at home had an excess of wheezing and nasal problems. Women reporting ETS exposure at home had an excess of throat problems.
Overall, the authors write, ``the adverse effects of ETS exposure at work were more prominent in men than in women.'' Among those exposed to ETS on the job, more men than women consulted physicians because of their symptoms.
Women tended to display symptoms such as morning cough and phlegm as well as throat and nasal problems.
These study results confirm that ETS exposure at work is associated with respiratory symptoms in both men and women, with the strongest correlation occurring in men, the investigators conclude.
An association was also found between ETS exposure at home and respiratory illness, but the risks of respiratory illness were greater for ETS exposure at work, ``because subjects spent more time among a larger number of smoking co-workers at work than at home,'' the authors explain.
The researchers acknowledge that neither the smoking status of study participants nor the level of their exposure to environmental tobacco smoke was independently validated. Yet, any misclassification that may have occurred because of this lack of validation ``would be minimal and cannot account for the strong ETS effects observed in both men and women,'' they assert.
``Although exposure to ETS at work is involuntary, it is easily preventable,'' the authors write. ``This study provides evidence of the serious health hazards due to ETS exposure at work to support tobacco control and smoking prevention measures.''