Black children may be far more susceptible to the ill effects of second-hand tobacco smoke than their white counterparts, U.S. researchers say after a study of 220 children with asthma.
Black children who were exposed to at least five cigarettes a day had significantly higher toxin levels in their hair and blood than white children with similar exposure.
"For some reason, African-American children may metabolize or break down nicotine more slowly than white children," says Dr. Stephen Wilson of the University of Cincinnati, who led the research.
It has been found that black children are more susceptible to tobacco-related disorders, like asthma, sudden-infant death syndrome and low birth weight.
Previous studies of adult smokers had demonstrated similar racial differences in serum cotinine (obtained when nicotine is broken down inside the body).
But the magnitude of the racial differences in the hair continine came as a surprise, Dr. Wilson added.
"Exposure to tobacco smoke is dangerous for everyone, regardless of age or race," said Mark J. Rosen, MD, FCCP, President of the American College of Chest Physicians. "These findings underline the importance of eliminating environmental tobacco smoke in every setting, especially those where children are present."