Secondhand Smoke Is a Toxic Air Contaminant, California Air Resources Board Says
SACRAMENTO, CA -- February 3, 2006 -- California has become the first state to label secondhand smoke a "toxic air contaminant" that may cause serious injury or death (Press Release, January 26, 2006). This action by the California Air Resources Board (ARB) helps pave the way for new smoking prevention programs and further restrictions on smoking in public places.
Also known as environmental tobacco smoke, secondhand smoke consists of smoke that is exhaled by the smoker (mainstream smoke) as well as smoke that is emitted between puffs of a cigarette, cigar or pipe (sidestream smoke). Both sidestream and mainstream tobacco smoke contain at least 60 carcinogens, including formaldehyde, and six developmental toxic substances, including nicotine and carbon monoxide (Environmental Tobacco Smoke, National Cancer Institute).
Secondhand Smoke Increases Breast Cancer Risk in Younger Women and Harms Children
The ARB action was based on a state report that found that secondhand smoke increases the risk of breast cancer in younger, pre-menopausal women. As the dose of secondhand smoke increases, the risk of breast cancer in younger women increases. The report looked at other factors that might explain the elevated breast cancer risk, but they had little impact on the link between secondhand smoke and breast cancer. Most newer studies cited in the report took into account reproductive history, alcohol consumption, oral contraceptive use, and family history before coming to conclusions about the association between breast cancer and exposure to secondhand smoke.
Pregnant women who come into contact with secondhand smoke are at increased risk for preterm deliveries, according to the report. It also confirmed previous studies linking secondhand smoke with low birth weight and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). In children, secondhand smoke exposure was associated with bronchitis, pneumonia, middle ear infections, and increased severity of asthma problems.
- Eye and nasal irritation
- Increased severity of asthma
- Lung cancer
- Nasal and sinus irritation
- Heart disease
This is in line with prior research. "This new report reaffirms many of the adverse health effects associated with ETS [environmental tobacco smoke or secondhand smoke], especially in children who live in homes where smoking occurs," said Air Resource Board Chairman, Dr. Robert Sawyer. "It also raises new concerns about its effects on women. All this strongly supported the need for the Air Board to identify ETS as a serious health threat."
"The ARB's action rightfully puts secondhand tobacco smoke in the same category as the most toxic automotive and industrial air pollutants," commented Joan Denton, director of the state Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment. "Californians, especially parents, would not willingly fill their homes with motor vehicle exhaust, and they should feel the same way about tobacco smoke."
Finding Out More About Environmental Tobacco Smoke
A "Questions and Answers" document summarizing the state report on secondhand smoke can be found on the ARB web site. You will need a copy of Adobe Acrobat Reader to open this file. If you do not already have this software, you may download a free copy at the Adobe Acrobat web site.