Almost 500,000 NYC children and adults are involuntarily exposed to secondhand smoke in their homes. They inhale their neighbor’s cigarette smoke as it seeps through cracks and vents. Secondhand smoke can never be isolated. If you live near a smoker, secondhand smoke becomes your constant companion—and your child’s. On average, up to 60% of the air in multi-unit buildings is shared.
A recent study analyzed a marker of tobacco exposure in children’s blood samples. The study tested for cotinine, a tobacco metabolite used to assess exposure to secondhand smoke, and found that children living in apartments had higher levels of the chemical in their systems than those who lived in detached houses, even though their parents had declared their family’s apartments smoke-free.
Studies show that children who are exposed to secondhand smoke at home have an increased risk of ear and respiratory infections and asthma. Researchers calculated that secondhand smoke kills 42,000 Americans each year, including nearly 900 infants. Secondhand smoke is linked to some of the same fatal illnesses caused by smoking, including heart and lung disease, and in babies, low birth weight, SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) and respiratory distress syndrome.
According to the Surgeon General, there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke. All apartment dwellers can encourage their neighbors to adopt a smoke-free policy and have their building go completely smoke-free.
When one person smokes, a whole building smokes. This year, let’s all enjoy a smoke-free holiday season and home.