Exposure to secondhand smoke prematurely ages a child’s blood vessels by more than three years, a new study revealed. The damage – thickening of blood vessel walls – increases the child’s risk of heart attack and stroke later in life.
The research, carried out in Finland and Australia, appears to reveal the physical effects of growing up in a smoke-filled home.
Ultrasound scans showed how children whose parents both smoked developed changes in the wall of a main artery that runs up the neck to the head. While the differences in carotid intima-media thickness were modest, they were significant and detectable some 20 years later when children had reached adulthood, say the investigators.
Direct and irreversible damage
“Our study shows that exposure to passive smoke in childhood causes a direct and irreversible damage to the structure of the arteries.” said Dr Seana Gall, from the University of Tasmania, the lead researcher. “Parents, or even those thinking about becoming parents, should quit smoking. This will not only restore their own health but also protect the health of their children into the future.”
Even after taking into other factors, such as whether the child became smoker as well, the results remained the same. But the damaging effects of passive smoking were seen only among the kids whose parents both smoke.
According to experts, there’s no safe level of cigarette smoke exposure. “We can speculate that the smoking behavior of someone in a house with a single adult smoking is different. For example, the parent that smokes might do so outside away from the family, therefore reducing the level of passive smoking. However, as we don’t have this type of data, this is only a hypothesis.” Dr Gall said.
Other health risks
Passive smoking damages kids’ health in so many ways primarily because it is composed of over 4,000 toxic chemicals, some of which are carcinogenic in nature. Studies have shown that children who breathe in secondhand smoke are at risk of developing asthma, cough and cold, and other serious respiratory conditions; middle ear disease, hearing loss, and meningitis. Furthermore, frequent exposure to cigarette smoke can increase the child’s risk of lung cancer, coronary heart disease, and heart failure. It can also cause lasting damage in their brain, leading to a wide variety of mental health problems. In some studies, cigarette smoke exposure has been linked to dementia.
If you’re a parent and you smoke, the only way to protect your children from the ill effects of passive smoking is to quit completely. Whilst not smoking at home could help, the smoke residue (also called third-hand smoke) remains in your clothing for a long time, even if you wash it a few times. Research shows that exposure to third-hand smoke can be as dangerous as secondhand smoke.
To ensure a healthier, brighter future for your kids, start investing on their health. Quit smoking today.