Sobering results from a study headed by Steven S. Hecht, Ph.D, a professor at The Cancer Center at the University of Minnesota have been published in the May issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. Hecht's study looked at the level of NNAL in the urine of 144 infants exposed to ETS (envionmental tobacco smoke) by cigarette smoking family members. NNAL is carcinogenic and produced within the body when another cancer-causing chemical, NNK, unique to tobacco is processed.
According to Hecht: "NNAL is an accepted biomarker for uptake of the tobacco-specific carcinogen NNK. You dont find NNAL in urine except in people who are exposed to tobacco smoke, whether they are adults, children, or infants."
Forty-seven percent of the infants reviewed had detectable levels of NNAL in their urine. They came from homes where an average of 76 cigarettes were smoked on a weekly basis by family members in the child's presence, both in the home and car. Those children with who didn't have detectable levels of NNAL came from homes where an average of 27 cigarettes were smoked.
"With more sensitive analytical equipment, the NNAL from urine of babies in lower frequency cigarette smoking households would most likely be detectable," Hecht said.
Cigarette smoke is a toxic mixture of thousands of chemical compounds, many of which are poisonous and/or carcinogenic. Things we'd never voluntarily inhale, such as carbon monoxide, ammonia and hydrogen cyanide, not to mention pesticides are in every puff of a cigarette. Researchers are far from understanding the full extent of the dangers presented by cigarette smoke, but one thing is clear: ETS is hazardous to anyone who breathes it in, whether they are young, old, smoker or nonsmoker.
The results of this study provide yet more information about the effects of second hand smoke on those who are most vulnerable - our children.
"The take home message is, don't smoke around your kids." says Hecht.
Second Hand Smoke Facts
- Physical development of young children who breathe second hand smoke on a regular basis is severely impacted, often resulting in health issues such as bronchitis, pneumonia, asthma and middle ear infections.
- Second hand smoke is responsible for approximately 3000 lung cancer deaths per year in nonsmokers.
- It has been estimated that between 35,000 and 62,000 nonsmoking American adults die of heart disease associated with second hand smoke every year.
- Second hand smoke is classified as a group A carcinogen by the EPA.
- Exposure to second hand smoke hastens hardening of the arteries, a condition known as artherosclerosis.
Centers for Disease Control
The Environmental Protection Agency