Smoking In The Car Quickly Exposes Children To Toxic Pollutants
November 23, 2012

Exposure To Pollutants Jumps 30 Percent Within Minutes Of Being In A Car With A Smoker

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Exposure to second hand smoke increases up to 30 percent for kids sitting in the back seat of a car with a smoker in the front, with pollutant levels exceeding those found in restaurants, bars, and casinos, according to new research published in the journal Tobacco Control.

The findings are based on 22 assessments of the air quality inside a stationary vehicle after three cigarettes had been smoked over the course of one hour.

The researchers from University of California, Berkeley, also measured levels of pollutants typically emitted by cars and cigarettes from the position of the breathing height of a child in the back seat. Two scenarios were evaluated, one with the front windows completely down (position 1), and another with the windows open about 4 inches (position 2).

The pollutants were also measured outside the vehicle, and included particulate matter, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), carbon monoxide plus nicotine.

Exposure to PAH has been linked to immune system disturbances, wheezing, IQ changes and allergic sensitization, the researchers noted.

The measurements revealed that pollutant levels inside the car at both window settings were three times as high as those measured outside.

The average particulate matter levels inside the car were 746.1 µg/m3 at position 1, and 1172.1 µg/m3 at position 2. The average size of the particulate matter was 0.3 µm.

Average levels of carbon monoxide reached 2.8 parts per million when cigarettes were extinguished, while those of PAH were around 10 times as high inside the car as they were outside. Nicotine levels varied between 5.06 µg/m3 and 411.3 µg/m3 inside the car for both window positions.

The researchers calculated that spending even a short amount of time inside a car with a smoker would make a significant difference to a child's daily exposure to harmful pollutants.

In fact, just 10 minutes at 1697 µg/m3 would increase a child's average daily exposure to particulate matter by up to 30%, and by 18% at levels of 1000 µg/m3, the researchers said.

"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," the study´s authors wrote.

"Although regulations have been enacted to protect non-smokers, including children in many public venues, second hand smoke exposures to children in vehicles are permitted in 44 of 50 US states, and in most countries worldwide."

The researchers are calling for government action to restrict exposure to second hand smoke in cars, particularly those carrying children.