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Children's Health Protection

Indoor Air Pollution


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Environmental Tobacco Smoke

Children can be exposed to a number of air pollutants inside homes, schools, and other buildings. Some of these pollutants come from indoor sources, including emissions from combustion sources such as gas stoves, fireplaces, and secondhand tobacco smoke; off-gassing from building materials such as treated wood and paints, furnishings, carpet, and fabrics; and consumer products such as sprays, window cleaners, and laundry soap. Exposure to environmental tobacco smoke has been recognized as an important health risk for children and is included in this report. Information on the toxic effects of other important indoor pollutants indicates that they could pose health risks to children.24 We will continue to explore data sources for other indoor air pollutants to include in future reports. 

Children who are exposed to environmental tobacco smoke, also known as secondhand smoke, are at increased risk for a number of adverse health effects, including lower respiratory tract infections, bronchitis, pneumonia, fluid in the middle ear, asthma symptoms, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).25-28 Exposure to environmental tobacco smoke also may be a risk factor contributing to new cases of asthma.25; 29-30 Young children appear to be more susceptible to the effects of environmental tobacco smoke than older children are.25

Smoke in the Home

Environmental tobacco smoke in the home is an important source of exposure because children spend most of their time at home and indoors. This report's measure for environmental tobacco smoke is the percentage of homes with children under 7 in which someone smokes regularly. This measure is a surrogate for the exposure of children to tobacco smoke, and the data are based on a national survey. Data are available for three of the 10 target years. The measure reflects the percentage of homes, rather than children, although it is expected that the two would track closely.

Measure  E4:  Percentage  of  homes  
with  children  under  7  where
someone  smokes  regularly

  • The percentage of homes with children under 7 in which someone smokes on a regular basis decreased from 29 percent in 1994 to 19 percent in 1999.


  • The percentage of homes with children under 7 in which someone is a smoker is greater than the percentage in which someone is allowed to smoke in the home.


  • Most often the smoker in the home is one of the parents.


  • The decline in the percentage of children exposed to environmental tobacco smoke in the home is similar to the decline in the percentage of adults who smoke.


Healthy People 2010:

Objective 27-09 of the Healthy People 2010 initiative seeks to reduce the percentage of children regularly exposed to secondhand smoke. See Appendix C for more information.


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