Tobacco Smoke Linked to Behavior Problems in Children and Pre-teens
April 30. 2006 -- A new Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center
study shows that exposure to environmental tobacco smoke, even at
extremely low levels, is associated with behavior problems in children
the study examined 5- to 11-year-olds with asthma, the findings
most likely could be extrapolated to include children without asthma
who "act out" or experience depression and anxiety, according
to Kimberly Yolton, PhD, a researcher at the Cincinnati Children's
Environmental Health Center and the study's main author
study was presented at 8:30 am Pacific time Sunday, April 30, at
the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies in San Francisco.
study provides further incentive for states to set public health
standards to protect children from exposure to environmental tobacco
smoke," says Dr. Yolton.
Yolton examined 225 children and pre-teens exposed to at least five
cigarettes a day. On average, the children were exposed to approximately
14 cigarettes a day. The children were enrolled in an asthma intervention
study. Dr. Yolton included additional measures to assess child behaviors.
measure exposure to environmental tobacco smoke, Dr. Yolton measured
levels of cotinine in the children's blood. Cotinine is a substance
produced when nicotine is broken down by the body and can be measured
in blood, urine, saliva and hair. It is considered the best available
marker of environmental tobacco smoke exposure.
Yolton found a relationship between cotinine levels and increases
in acting out; increases in holding things in, often manifested
by anxiety and depression; increases in behavior problems as rated
by parents, and behavior and school problems as rated by teachers;
and, decreases in the ability to adapt to behavior problems.
greater the exposure to tobacco smoke, the greater the problems
these children had," says Dr. Yolton. "Behavior problems
in children have increased from 7 to 18 percent over the last 20
years for reasons that are poorly understood. Exposure to environmental
tobacco smoke is increasingly recognized as a risk factor for child
the United States, about 25 percent of children are exposed to environmental
tobacco smoke in their own homes, yet more than 50 percent of children
have detectable levels of cotinine in their blood, according to
studies have found link between tobacco smoke and birth weight,
number of infections and other health problems, including asthma
exacerbations. In a groundbreaking study in 2002, Dr. Yolton found
that exposure to environmental tobacco smoke, even at extremely
low levels, is associated with decreases in certain cognitive skills,
including reading, math, and logic and reasoning, in children and
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