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Environmental Illness - Toxic Chemicals in Our Environment

Indoor air pollution

Indoor air pollution can affect you at home, work, or even places you visit. It is a common source of respiratory diseases, including asthma, allergies, and lung cancer. It can be worse in winter, when windows are shut tight and less fresh air can circulate.

See tips for reducing indoor air pollution, such as not allowing anyone to smoke in your home.

Cigarette smoke

One of the most common and toxic indoor air pollutants is cigarette smoke. Experts believe about 90% of lung cancers are caused by cigarette smoke.1Smoking, or even inhaling secondhand smoke, increases your risk of heart attack and stroke.

Tobacco smoke contains many chemicals, some of which are known to cause cancer. If you are a nonsmoker and household members or coworkers will not stop smoking around you, ask that they smoke only in well-ventilated or isolated areas. Never smoke around children or allow them to be exposed to cigarette smoke, especially if they have asthma or allergies.

Exposure to cigarette smoke causes wheezing, coughing, and extra mucus (phlegm) in many children. Secondhand smoke also can cause fluid to build up in the inner ear, which can cause ear infections. Lower respiratory infections, such as pneumonia and bronchitis, are also risks. Sometimes these types of infections become serious enough to require a hospital stay, especially when they develop in babies and young children.2

Babies who are exposed to secondhand smoke are at increased risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).3

Cigarette smoke may cause asthma in children.3 Also, children with asthma who are exposed to cigarette smoke have more attacks and more severe symptoms than other children with asthma.3

See information on the increased impact of environmental illnesses on children. For example, in recent years, the number of children with asthma has more than doubled, and environmental causes are suspected.

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