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Secondhand Smoke Increases Heart Disease Risk, Study Finds


 Editor    May 20 : 15:31
 None    News Stories

Exposure to secondhand smoke is even more dangerous than previously thought and increases the risk of heart disease among non-smokers by as much as 60 percent, according to a study just published in the British Medical Journal.

Exposure to secondhand smoke is even more dangerous than previously thought and increases the risk of heart disease among non-smokers by as much as 60 percent, according to a study just published in the British Medical Journal.

Researchers said the study provides the most compelling evidence yet that secondhand smoke causes heart disease. It is the first study to show a direct physical link between secondhand smoke exposure and an increased risk of heart disease.

"This study underscores the need for states and communities across the country to enact comprehensive clean indoor air laws that require all workplaces and public places to be smoke-free," said William V. Corr, executive director of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.


"The evidence is irrefutable that secondhand smoke isn't just annoying; it is a scientifically proven cause of serious health problems, including heart disease, lung cancer and chronic lung ailments such as bronchitis and asthma," Corr said. "It is absolutely unacceptable for anyone to be exposed to these hazards in the workplace. Elected officials must protect everyone's right to breathe clean air."

The new study, conducted over 20 years by researchers at St. George's Hospital Medical School in London, measured exposure to secondhand smoke from all sources --- in bars, restaurants, and other workplaces, as well as in the home --- based on blood levels of a nicotine byproduct called cotinine.

The researchers found that high blood cotinine levels were associated with a 50 to 60 percent higher risk of coronary heart disease. Previous studies had estimated increased risk at 25 to 30 percent. The new study is one of the few that has sought to account for all sources of exposure to secondhand smoke, not just home exposure.

These findings add to evidence that exposure to secondhand smoke increases the risk of heart disease in non-smokers. A study published in The British Medical Journal in April found that the number of heart attacks reported in Helena, Montana, fell by 40 percent during a six-month period in 2002 when the city's comprehensive smoke-free law was in effect (the law is on hold due to a legal challenge).

Because of this and other evidence that even short-term exposure to secondhand smoke can trigger heart attacks, experts at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a commentary in the same issue of The British Medical Journal that advised persons with heart disease to avoid indoor settings where smoking is allowed.

The CDC estimates that secondhand smoke causes 35,000 heart disease deaths a year in the United States and expects to revise that estimate upward as a result of the Helena study.

There is an overwhelming scientific consensus that exposure to secondhand smoke causes disease, disability and death. Secondhand smoke contains over 4,000 chemicals and 69 known carcinogens, including formaldehyde, cyanide, arsenic, carbon monoxide, methane, benzene, and radioactive polonium 210. In addition to heart disease, secondhand smoke is proven to cause lung cancer and serious respiratory illnesses.

The study found that even the typical levels of passive exposure have been shown to cause lung cancer" among people who have never smoked. Studies show that children are especially vulnerable to other people's smoke, suffering more asthma, bronchitis, ear infections and other ailments.

The complete text of the study can be found at
http://bmj.bmjjournals.com/cgi/reprint/bmj.38146.427188.55v1.


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