Smoking out sources of in-home air pollution

May 17, 2017

An ambitious study led by San Diego State University researchers has investigated various factors that contribute to air pollution inside the house. Not surprisingly, cigarette smoke emerged as a major source of airborne particles in homes with smokers, but cleaning products, candles, frying food and marijuana smoking also jumped out as in-home air polluters. The findings are especially relevant to families with children living in low-income households; these kids are at greater risk of health problems resulting from poor air quality.

"Our primary goal was to figure out what's happening in houses that leads to higher air particle levels and, in turn, to unhealthy environments for kids," said study coauthor John Bellettiere, a graduate student in the SDSU-UCSD Joint Doctoral Program in Public Health.

A research team led by SDSU environmental scientist and lead author Neil Klepeis, behavioral health researcher and principal investigator Melbourne Hovell, and co-investigator Suzanne Hughes recruited into the study nearly 300 families living in San Diego with at least one child aged 14 and younger and one smoker. They installed a pair of air particle monitors in each of the homes, one in the area of the house closest to where smoking usually occurs and one in the child's bedroom.

The monitors continuously scan the air for fine particles between 0.5 and 2.5 micrometers in size—a range that includes dust, fungal spores, auto emissions and combustion byproducts. It's an important size range to human health, as these particles are of a size that can reach deep into the lungs, where they can influence a variety of health complications including breathing and cardiovascular problems.

Over the course of three months, the monitors transmitted air quality data from the homes back to the researchers. On two occasions, the team conducted interviews to ask about what activities were occurring in the house at various times, such as cooking, cleaning and smoking. Finally, the scientists correlated the households' activities with their respective air quality monitor data and a clear picture emerged.

Homes that reported cigarette smoking indoors had a median particle level that was close to double that of homes without indoor smoking. These contain nicotine and combustion byproducts well known to be dangerous to people's health, especially children's. Interestingly, marijuana smoking contributed to in-home air pollution about as much as tobacco smoking—the first time such a finding has been reported. Finally, burning candles and incense, frying food in oil and spraying cleaning products also increased the number of in the air. The researchers reported their findings today in journal PLOS ONE.

"The aim of our research is, ultimately, to find effective ways to promote smoke-free homes and also to find good strategies, in general, for reducing exposure to household pollution," Klepeis said. "The findings from our work will allow for better education and feedback to families."

Bellettiere says the team will follow up on its marijuana findings to find out whether the elevated air pollution that results from marijuana translates into increased exposure to and cannabinoids in nonsmokers living in the house.

Klepeis added: "Our research team is continuing to develop novel monitoring devices and approaches that consumers can use to understand their , and to explore ways that work for them and their families to reduce unhealthy pollutant exposures, especially for kids."

Explore further: For young adults, cigarettes more pleasurable with alcohol than with pot

More information: DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0177718

Related Stories

For young adults, cigarettes more pleasurable with alcohol than with pot

April 18, 2017
Young adults get more pleasure from smoking cigarettes while they are drinking alcohol than they do while using marijuana, according to a new UC San Francisco study.

Kids' hands may be a source of significant nicotine exposure

April 6, 2017
Children may carry significant levels of nicotine on their hands just by coming into contact with items or surfaces contaminated with tobacco smoke residues, even when no one is actively smoking around them at the time.

Thirdhand smoke lingers in the home long after smokers have quit

September 22, 2016
Even when you quit smoking, residue left behind by cigarette smoke can stick to surfaces, penetrate deep into materials in your home and settle in for a long time to come. A new study led by researchers at San Diego State ...

Non-smokers exposed to three times above safe levels of particles when living with smokers

October 20, 2014
Non-smokers who live in a house with smokers are exposed to three times the officially recommend safe levels of damaging air particles, according to a study published online in the journal Tobacco Control.

Clean indoor air laws encourage bans on smoking at home

November 8, 2011
Second hand smoke exposure among nonsmokers has declined over time as clean indoor air laws have been adopted. However, there has been concern that such laws might encourage smokers to smoke more in their homes or other private ...

More than 8 in 10 US homes forbid smoking

September 4, 2014
Health officials say smoking is banned in more than eight out of 10 U.S. homes—nearly twice what the numbers were two decades ago.

Recommended for you

India has avoided 1 million child deaths since 2005, new study concludes

September 19, 2017
India has avoided about 1 million deaths of children under age five since 2005, driven by significant reductions in mortality from pneumonia, diarrhea, tetanus and measles, according to new research published today.

Gulf spill oil dispersants associated with health symptoms in cleanup workers

September 19, 2017
Workers who were likely exposed to dispersants while cleaning up the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill experienced a range of health symptoms including cough and wheeze, and skin and eye irritation, according to scientists ...

Study suggests link between youth football and later-life emotional, behavioral impairment

September 19, 2017
A new study has found an association between participation in youth tackle football before age 12 and impaired mood and behavior later in life. The study appears in Nature's Translational Psychiatry.

Self-confidence affected by teammates, study finds

September 19, 2017
A person's confidence in their own ability varies significantly depending on who is in their team, according to new research from the University of Stirling.

Video game boosts sex health IQ and attitudes in minority teens

September 18, 2017
A videogame designed by Yale researchers to promote health and reduce risky behavior in teens improves sexual health knowledge and attitudes among minority youth, according to a new study. The findings validate the value ...

Two Americas: Seniors are getting healthier but most gains go to high-income whites

September 18, 2017
Older Americans report feeling dramatically healthier than they did 14 years ago but that good health isn't evenly distributed, with much of the gain going to the wealthiest, most highly educated and whites.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.