From: David A Gabel, ENN
Published May 4, 2012 09:26 AM

Major Apartment Air Quality Issue: Tobacco Smoke

One of the reasons that smoking has been banned in so many places in cities like New York is because the population density is so high. There are people everywhere you look, many of whom feel their right to privacy is violated by someone else's smoke blown in their breathing zone. One place where this right is overlooked is in apartments, where many people live in close proximity to smokers. A new study from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) shows that tobacco smoke can seep from one apartment to another. Along with noisy neighbors and odorous cooking smells, unwanted tobacco smoke ranks high as a major indoor environmental issue in apartments.

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The researchers from the AAP Julius B. Richmond Center of Excellence conducted a national survey of adults who live in apartments. The AAP Center of Excellence is named after a former US Surgeon General and is committed to protecting children from secondhand smoke.

The survey asked the residents if they experienced any incursion of smoke, defined as smelling tobacco in their building and/or unit. They were asked if they children and if there were any smoking restrictions in the building. Only people who had not smoked in their home for the previous three months were included in the survey.

One third of respondents reported smelling tobacco in the building, and half of these smelled it in their unit. Those with children were more likely to smell the smoke than those without children. Of those who have smelled smoke, 38% smell it weekly and 12% smell it daily.

"A significant number of residents of multi-unit housing are being unwillingly exposed to tobacco smoke, in some cases on a daily basis, and children seem to be especially vulnerable," said lead author Karen M. Wilson, MD, MPH, FAAP, section head, pediatric hospital medicine at Children's Hospital Colorado and assistant professor of pediatrics, University of Colorado School of Medicine. "This exposure could put children at risk for respiratory diseases and illness if it is persistent or if the child has a significant respiratory illness such as asthma or cystic fibrosis."

Options for finding smoke-free buildings are limited, and it is often too difficult to move away from a smoky neighbor. The researchers support grassroots efforts to make more buildings smoke-free. They site lower costs associated with managing nonsmoking apartments and the improved comfort, health, and safety of its residents.

This study has been presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies Annual Meeting in Boston.

Smoking Man image via Shutterstock

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