Tobacco Education Center

Health Risk in Children and Women (2005)
Secondhand Smoke Linked to Health Risks in Children and Women
Sept. 29, 2005

SACRAMENTO: The California Air Resources Board (ARB) today released a report which links environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) to a variety of health effects ranging from asthma, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and increased incidences of breast cancer in non-smoking pre-menopausal women.

"These findings again heighten the need to minimize the public's exposure to tobacco smoke," said ARB Executive Officer, Catherine Witherspoon. "This information should be considered before anyone lights up another cigarette, especially around infants and children."

The joint ARB and the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) report cites new and strengthening evidence that links secondhand tobacco smoke to a wide variety of adverse health effects, including increased incidences of cancer, heart disease and respiratory ailments, as well as the increased incidences of breast cancer in non-smoking pre-menopausal women. In addition to the breast cancer finding, other significant findings of the report include the correlation of exposure to secondhand smoke to premature and low birth-weight babies, SIDS, bronchitis, pneumonia, the induction and exacerbation of asthma, and to middle ear infections in children. In adults, ETS has been identified as a cause of lung and nasal sinus cancer, eye and nasal irritation and now asthma. To read the report click here.

"Secondhand smoke is more than just an annoyance. The scientific record is increasingly clear that smokers are putting their families and friends at risk if they regularly smoke in their presence," said Dr. Joan Denton, Director of OEHHA.

Secondhand smoke is a complex mixture of compounds formed by the burning of tobacco products and from exhaled smoke. ETS has been found to be a critical source of exposure to other toxic air contaminants such as benzene, 1,3 butadiene, and arsenic. In California each year, tobacco smoke is responsible for the release of 40 tons of nicotine, 365 tons of respirable particulate matter (RSP), and 1907 tons of carbon monoxide. For more information on ETS click here.

As required by state law, the Scientific Review Panel on Toxic Air Contaminants (SRP) has reviewed the report's data, its scientific procedures and methods used to support the data, and its conclusions and assessments. The SRP approved the report, recommends that the ARB list ETS as a toxic air contaminant (TAC), and also recommends that OEHHA add it to its list of TACs that may disproportionately impact children.

The process of identifying ETS as a TAC was initiated in 2001 when ARB staff began an evaluation of the potential for human exposure to ETS, while OEHHA staff began an evaluation of its health effects. The results of these evaluations were included in a report that was released for public comment in 2003. Upon modifications due to public comments, the report was submitted to the SRP for review. The SRP then examined the report's process and findings, and made several recommendations for corrections until the final report being released today was approved. With SRP approval, the report forms the technical basis for regulatory action. If ETS is formally listed as a TAC, the ARB is required by law to determine if there is a need to further control outdoor exposures.

In 1997, the ARB approved an earlier ETS report and forwarded it to the California Department of Health, where the state's anti-smoking unit is located. For more information click here.

The Air Resources Board is a department of the California Environmental Protection Agency. ARB's mission is to promote and protect public health, welfare, and ecological resources through effective reduction of air pollutants while recognizing and considering effects on the economy. The ARB oversees all air pollution control efforts in California to attain and maintain health based air quality standards.

The full report is available at