Studies show smoking's toll on children
SAN FRANCISCO, May 20 (UPI) -- Children exposed to cigarette smoke have
stunted lung development and high lead exposure according to two studies
released Sunday at the American Thoracic Society International Conference.
Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, Ga., studied
4,613 children between the ages of 1 and 5 during a 6-year period. They
measured environmental tobacco smoke exposure and compared it to blood lead
The researchers adjusted the data for known lead contributing factors such
as ethnicity, age of housing and socioeconomic status. Their findings showed
that children's blood level exposure to lead increased in direct proportion
to tobacco smoke exposure.
Although the amount of lead exposure found in the children was below the
CDC level of concern, the researchers say the lead exposure could have more
subtle, long-term effects on development. Given the proven toxicity of lead
and its particularly damaging impact on children's health, the researchers
hope the findings will guide public policy.
Similar findings on the health impact of lead in paint and gasoline
inspired initiatives to ban the heavy metal from those products, said Rachel
Albalak, lead author of the study.
"We need to ask: Is this something we're overlooking in our lead policy?"
said Dr. David Mannino, chief of CDC's Air Pollution and Respiratory Health
A second study by University of Arizona researchers found that male
adolescent smokers have stunted lung development. Interestingly, female
childhood smokers had normal lung growth and girls who smoked between the
ages of 10 and 17 but who later quit had better lung development than those
that never smoked at all.
The study asked 188 children between the ages of 10 and 17 and if they had
ever smoked or if they currently smoked. Researchers measured their lung
volume and their ability to exhale quickly. "If boys start smoking early,
they already showed signs of air flow obstruction in their teens," said
Catherine Holburg, lead author. "This could be because of a lag in the
growth of airways relative to lung volume," she said.
The study builds on previous research that uncovered a gender difference
in lung development and respiratory health. "Boys showed smaller airway
size and a lot more susceptibility to respiratory infection than girls,"
said Holburg. The findings may be particularly useful for teenage smoking
prevention programs. Holburg said the data should be posted in
pediatrician's offices and distributed to health workers.
"Telling adolescents that they may get cancer at 60 (years of age) doesn't
mean a lot to them, but perhaps this will," said Dr. Luke Clancy, clinical
director of respiratory research at St. James Hospital in Ireland.