Second hand smoke is the smoke that enters the air from a burning cigarette and it is also the smoke that a smoker exhales. Interestingly, second hand smoke contains more dangerous chemicals than the smoke that a smoker inhales.
Tobacco smoke contains thousands of chemical compounds. It has been proven that over two hundred fifty of these chemicals are toxic to the human body.
Ammonia is a chemical found in second hand smoke. Ammonia is very irritating to the lungs and can cause damage with prolonged exposure. Carbon monoxide is a chemical that will reduce the oxygen in the blood stream. Second hand smoke also contains hydrogen cyanide which is a powerful poison that will interfere with breathing.
Second hand smoke is dangerous to adults. Living with a smoker will increase a non-smoker’s risk of developing cancer, heart disease or lung disease.
Since it is so dangerous for an adult to live with a smoker, the effects of second hand smoke on an infant are astronomical because their tiny lungs and bodies are still developing.
Infants will have higher breathing rates than adults. An infant’s normal respiratory rate is between thirty and sixty breaths per minute. This means that an infant will inhale a lot more second hand smoke than an adult.
An infant is at greatest risk of secondhand smoke from their mothers. Even though the mother may not smoke around the infant, there is still negative effects from the chemicals released from tobacco pollution that clings to the mother’s clothes and hair.
An infant that is in a room where there are people smoking will inhale as many dangerous chemicals as if he or she had smoked ten cigarettes. Think of the damage that is being done to an infant’s lungs in this case.
Women who are exposed to second hand smoke while pregnant are at a higher risk of giving birth to a baby with a low birth weight.
Babies that are exposed to second hand smoke either in the womb or as an infant have a higher risk of dying from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
Infants that are exposed to second hand smoke can develop asthma. These infants will also have more lower respiratory infections such as pneumonia and bronchitis. A lot of times this will cause the infant to be hospitalized to treat the infections.
Infants who are exposed to second hand smoke will have more upper airway infections also. They will have decreased lung function due to the damage that the second hand smoke can cause.
An infant that lives with a smoking parent will have more cases of middle ear infections. This will increase the need for antibiotic use and sometimes hospitalization.
Second hand smoke is dangerous to adults and it is devastating to an infant’s developing lungs. The toxic chemicals that are released in second hand smoke will cause negative effects on an infant’s health up to and including death.
Center for Diseae Control and Prevention: Health Effects of Second Hand Smoke
March of dimes: Second Hand Smoke
Environmental Protection Agency: Health Effects of Exposure to Second Hand Smoke
University of california: How Secondhand Smoke Injures Babies’ Lungs
Cleveland Clinic: Dangers of Second-hand Smoke