Even brief road trips in a car with a smoker can put children, and others, at significant health risks from secondhand tobacco smoke, new research finds.
The study, published online in the journal Tobacco Control, found spending as little as 10 minutes in the back seat of a car with a smoker in the front boosts a child’s daily exposure to harmful pollutants by up to 30 percent.
What’s more, pollutant levels from smoking in cars can exceed those found in restaurants, bars, and casinos, the study showed.
"Children are more vulnerable than adults, and their exposures to tobacco smoke in a vehicle are completely controlled by the adults with whom they share the vehicle," said the research team, led by specialists with the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at the University of California Berkeley.
"Although regulations have been enacted to protect non-smokers, including children in many public venues, secondhand smoke exposures to children in vehicles are permitted in 44 of 50 U.S. states, and in most countries worldwide."
The researchers noted children are very vulnerable to the effects of secondhand smoke in cars and private homes — locations not covered by t public bans on smoking.
They based their conclusions on 22 assessments of the air quality inside a vehicle after three cigarettes had been smoked over the course of an hour. The results showed pollutants — including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), and carbon monoxide, plus nicotine — are all present at high levels in cars of smokers.
The pollutants have been linked to immune system disturbances, wheeze, IQ changes, and allergic sensitization, they noted.