By Robert Preidt
TUESDAY, Oct. 21, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Nonsmokers who live with smokers are exposed to triple the World Health Organization's recommended safe levels of harmful air particles, a new study warns.
That means that air-particle levels in a home with a smoker are similar to that of the air in large, polluted cities, the study found. Living in smoke-free homes could offer major health benefits to nonsmokers, according to the authors of the study published online Oct. 20 in the journal Tobacco Control.
"Smokers often express the view that outdoor air pollution is just as much a concern as the secondhand smoke in their home," study author Dr. Sean Semple, of the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, said in a journal news release.
"These measurements show that secondhand tobacco smoke can produce very high levels of toxic particles in your home; much higher than anything experienced outside in most towns and cities in the U.K. Making your home smoke-free is the most effective way of dramatically reducing the amount of damaging fine particles you inhale," he advised.
The study's authors compared levels of fine particulate matter such as fine dust or soot in the air of almost 100 homes with smokers and nearly 20 nonsmoking homes in Scotland. Average concentrations of fine particulate matter were about 10 times higher in the homes with smokers than in the nonsmoking homes, the researchers found.
On average, nonsmokers who lived with smokers were exposed to levels of fine particulate matter three times higher than the WHO's yearly exposure limit, the study noted.
Many nonsmokers who lived with smokers inhaled similar amounts of fine particulate matter as nonsmokers who lived and worked in smoke-free environments in cities with high levels of air pollution, such as London or Beijing, according to the study.
The researchers estimated that a person living in a smoke-free home would inhale about 0.76 grams of fine particulate matter over 80 years, compared with 5.82 grams for someone in a smoking household.
If a smoking household became smoke-free, nonsmokers would inhale about 70 percent less fine particulate matter per day, the researchers said. The reductions would be most significant for very young children and seniors, according to the study.
"These findings ultimately support the need for efforts to reduce SHS [secondhand smoke] exposure in the home, most notably through the implementation of smoke-free home rules and smoke-free multiunit housing policies," the researchers concluded.