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How Indoor Secondhand Smoke Impacts Your Family
Secondhand smoke (SHS) is also known as Environmental Tobacco Smoke. SHS includes both exhaled and sidestream smoke. Secondhand smoke contains more than 4,000 substances, including over 40 that are linked to cancer.
How Does SHS Relate To Asthma?
SHS may trigger asthma episodes and make asthma symptoms more severe in children who already have asthma. Moreover, it is a risk factor for new cases of asthma in children who have not previously exhibited asthma symptoms.
The means by which SHS triggers an asthma episode is believed to be through its irritancy effects. That is, it irritates the chronically inflamed bronchial passages of asthmatics. This is a different pathway from most of the other environmental triggers of asthma, like dust mites and pet dander, which trigger asthma episodes through allergenic effects.
Exposure to it is also known to cause a variety of other negative health consequences, including lung cancer, ear infections in children, and respiratory illnesses.
Many of the health effects of SHS (including asthma) are most clearly manifested in children. This is because children are particularly vulnerable to SHS. This is likely due to several factors, including the fact that children are still developing physically, have higher breathing rates than adults, and have little control over their indoor environments. Children receiving high doses of SHS, such as those with smoking mothers, run the greatest relative risk of experiencing damaging health effects.
Actions You Can Take
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The three most common approaches to reducing indoor air pollution are:
Source Control: Eliminate. reduce or control the sources of pollution; although it is difficult to force pets outdoors, stop people from using cigarettes and cigars and eliminate all odors.
Ventilation: Dilute and exhaust pollutants through outdoor air ventilation; in the winter however, venting to the outdoors may increase heating and energy costs.
Air Cleaning: Remove pollutants and secondhand smoke through proven air cleaning methods and products.
The first approach -- source control -- involves minimizing the use of products and materials that cause indoor pollution including secondhand smoke, employing good hygiene practices to minimize biological contaminants (including the control of humidity and moisture, and occasional cleaning and disinfection of wet or moist surfaces), and using good housekeeping practices to control particles.
The second approach -- outdoor air ventilation -- is also effective and commonly employed. Ventilation methods include installing an exhaust fan close to the source of contaminants, increasing outdoor air flows in mechanical ventilation systems, and opening windows, especially when pollutant sources are in use.
The third approach -- air cleaning -- the best method is used to supplement source control and ventilation. Air filters, electronic particle air cleaners and ionizers are often used to remove airborne particles, and gas adsorbing material is sometimes used to remove gaseous contaminants when source control and ventilation are inadequate.