Here’s another reason not to light up around little ones: Not only are children who are surrounded by secondhand smoke at greater risk for asthma and other health problems, but they may be more likely to have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder or learning disabilities too.
The new analysis comes from a national phone survey in which parents were asked whether they smoked and if they’d been told by a health professional that their child has any of three problems: ADD or ADHD; a learning disability; or a behavioral or conduct problem. Out of the more than 55,000 children under the age of 12 in the analysis, about 6% of the children were exposed to secondhand smoke, corresponding to about 4.8 million children nationwide.
Researchers, led by the Harvard School of Public Health, found that children in a smoking home had a 50% greater likelihood of having at least two of the three disorders. Boys were at higher risk than girls. And the researchers estimate that 274,100 such disabilities could have been prevented if the children were not exposed to secondhand smoke. The full results were published online Monday in Pediatrics.
The study doesn’t prove that secondhand smoke causes neurological and behavioral disabilities. Though the authors took factors like poverty status, race and the mother’s education into account, the authors acknowledge other variables, like whether the mothers smoked during pregnancy, could confound the results. And it’s difficult to know how accurately parents answered questions over the phone.