MONDAY, July 11 (HealthDay News) -- Children exposed to secondhand smoke in their homes face a higher risk of developing attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, other behavioral problems and learning disorders, a new study finds.
The research doesn't definitively prove that tobacco smoke can harm children's brains, and it doesn't say how much smoke is too much. However, it does add to the evidence that children may be especially vulnerable to the effects of smoke exposure.
"They're in a developmental stage and their body is growing," potentially putting them at greater risk of disruptions to their brains than adults, said study co-author Hillel R. Alpert, a research scientist at Harvard School of Public Health's Center for Global Tobacco Control in Boston.
It's difficult to confirm whether secondhand smoke causes children's health problems because it would be unethical to expose kids to smoke and watch what happens to them. Instead, researchers often must look backward, as they did in this study, and try to eliminate all explanations but one for a link between smoke exposure and illness.
For their study, published online July 11 in the journal Pediatrics, researchers examined the results of a 2007 U.S. telephone survey of families that included 55,358 children under the age of 12. Six percent of them were exposed to secondhand smoke in the home.
After adjusting their numbers to improve their validity from a statistical point of view, the researchers found that about 8 percent of the kids had learning disabilities, 6 percent had attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and almost 4 percent had behavioral and conduct disorders, such as oppositional defiant disorder.
Those who lived in homes with smokers were more likely to have at least two of the conditions, even after the researchers adjusted their statistics to account for such factors as incom
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