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Environmental tobacco smoke increases school absenteeism.

Gilliland FD, Berhane K, Islam T, Wenten M, Rappaport E, Avol E, Gauderman W J, McConnell R, Peters JM. 2003. Environmental tobacco smoke and absenteeism related to respiratory illness in schoolchildren. Am J Epidemiol 157:861-869.

Research has shown that exposure to household environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) is responsible for respiratory illnesses among young children; however, the ETS-associated morbidity for school-age children is less well defined. Previous research by a team including NIEHS grantees Frank Gilliland, William J. Gauderman, and John Peters of the Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, has shown that asthma-related school absenteeism is a major problem in Southern California, accounting for a large portion of all absences. To determine the extent to which ETS exposure might be implicated in school absenteeism, these researchers and colleagues investigated the relationship between ETS exposure, asthma status, and respiratory illness-related school absences in 1,932 fourth-grade schoolchildren from 12 Southern California communities.

At study entry, more than 18% of the children were exposed to household ETS. Overall, ETS exposure was associated with a 27% increase in risk of school absences related to respiratory illness. Children living in a household with two or more smokers were at a substantially higher risk (75%) of such absences. Children with asthma were at the greatest increased risk of school absences related to respiratory illness. When exposed to one smoker, the risk for children with asthma was 2.35 times higher, and when exposed to two or more smokers, the risk increased to 4.45 times higher. Children who were exposed to ETS also had higher rates of absences related to all types of illness.

This study demonstrates that ETS exposure is associated with increased respiratory illness-related school absenteeism among school-age children, with much higher risks for children with asthma. Approximately 9 million children in the United States suffer from asthma, and related school absences cause millions of lost work hours for parents who must stay home to care for their children. This research shows that ETS plays a major part in some of these absences and points out the need for smoking cessation programs, especially for the parents of children with asthma.
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Title Annotation:Headliners
Author:Phelps, Jerry
Publication:Environmental Health Perspectives
Date:Oct 1, 2003
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