When there is a smoker in the house

Leonardo Trasande, MD, shares advice for parents on how to keep your children safe from second-hand smoke when there is a smoker in the house
How To Keep Your Kids Safe With A Smoker In The House
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When there is a smoker in the house

Tobacco smoke is increasingly known to contribute to an array of health hazards in children, ranging from impacts on brain development, to irritations of the lungs, among a host of other conditions. What we're learning is that even the smallest amounts of tobacco smoke exposure can be harmful. We used to think it was simply primary smoke exposure, then we found out that being near a smoker was a problem, and we are increasingly finding that living in a home that previously had a smoker, the so-called "third-hand smoke," is a problem. So in general, the #1, #2, and #3 thing to do, if a family member is smoking where a child lives, is to have the family member stop. The most important thing to know is that there are many tools that the smoker can use to quit, ranging from gums and patches, that limit the exposure to the smoke in the home. Now if that fails, or as a fail-safe in the short-term, I do suggest that the family member not smoke in the house at a minimum, that they change their clothes before handling the child, among other things, to reduce their transport of the thousand or so chemicals that are found in tobacco smoke.

Leonardo Trasande, MD, shares advice for parents on how to keep your children safe from second-hand smoke when there is a smoker in the house


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Leonardo Trasande, MD, MPP

Associate Professor, NYU School of Medicine

Dr. Leo Trasande's research focuses on identifying the role of environmental exposures in childhood obesity and cardiovascular risks, and documenting the economic costs for policy makers of failing to prevent diseases of environmental origin in children proactively. Dr. Trasande is perhaps best known for a 2012 Journal of the American Medical Association study associating Bisphenol A exposure in children and adolescents with obesity, and a 2011 study in Health Affairs which found that children's exposures to chemicals in the environment cost $76.6 billion in 2008. His analysis of the economic costs of mercury pollution played a critical role in preventing the Clear Skies Act (which would have relaxed regulations on emissions from coal-fired power plants) from becoming law. He has also published a series of studies which document increases in hospitalizations associated with childhood obesity and increases in medical expenditures associated with being obese or overweight in childhood.

These studies have been cited in the Presidential Task Force Report in Childhood Obesity, and another landmark study identified that a $2 billion annual investment in prevention would be cost-effective even if it produced small reductions in the number of children who were obese and overweight. He serves on the Executive Committee of the Council for Environmental Health of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and on the Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee for the World Trade Center Health Program. He recently served on a United Nations Environment Programme Steering Committee which published a Global Outlook on Chemicals in 2013, and on the Board of Scientific Counselors for the National Center for Environmental Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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