Second-hand smoke and its effect on children

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - The effects of second-hand smoke can be contradictory when it comes to lung function between boys and girls.

There is one thing that is certain; it's extremely harmful to both genders.

When it comes to allergies and lung function, the latest study suggests a drastic difference between boys and girls. At the University of Cincinnati, doctors and researchers with the Department of Environmental Health have spent the last eight years trying to find an answer to that question.

Kelly Brunst joined the project as a Ph. D student within the college of medicine and says the results were a little surprising.

"Nearly 80% of the children in our area have detectable levels of environmental tobacco smoke in their hair," said Brunst.

The study is officially called the Cincinnati Childhood Allergy and Air Pollution Study or CCAAPS study. The group tested 486 children over the course of eight years. The children were targeted before birth based on their parents who tested positive for allergies and symptoms.

"These children are a group of kids that are at risk for developing allergies and asthma later in life," said Brunst.

The children were tested every year, from age one through four, and then again at age seven. The tests included; a skin prick test for allergies along with pulmonary function and asthma, plus hair continue examinations for second-hand smoke. At age seven more extensive testing included pulmonary function testing.

James Lockey a professor with UC's department of environmental health says both genders did show symptoms of decreased lung function and allergies by age seven after being exposed to second hand smoke.

The allergens that were most prevalent were pollen, ragweed and dust mites.  However, girls showed heightened results at age two for allergies and at age seven showed an alarming difference in lung function.

"Girls who were allegorically sensitized had six times the decrease in lung function compared to boys," said Brunst.

In this study 16% of the children tested reported one parent in the house as a smoker and 6% reported two parents as smokers. However, cigarette smoke isn't the only factor in this study, mobile emissions are a problem too.

"We noticed how many trucks were on the super highways," said Lockey. "That's really where the study started."

The majority of the pollutants in the air come from benzene, a carcinogen found in car emissions.

"Cars and trucks, those are basic mobile sources and they contribute about 90% over 90% of the carbon monoxide we see in this area," said Brad Miller of the Hamilton County Environmental Services Department. "

Right now, it's about limiting exposure and changing bad habits. Brunst also worries about third hand smoke, that's smoke that exists on the surfaces of clothes and skin and is equally as dangerous. Research is just beginning on this.

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