A study by the American Society of Anesthesiologists have proved that the carbon monoxide levels of children exposed to second-hand smoke are often similar to that of active adult smokers and frequently higher than levels in adults exposed to second-hand smoke. Branden E. Yee, M.D., and his research group from the anesthesiology department at Tufts Medical Center studies 200 children between the ages of 1 and 12 to assess their levels of carboxyhemoglobin, which is formed when carbon monoxide binds to the blood.
Carbon monoxide binds to blood 200 times more easily than oxygen, but the resultant carboxyhemoglobin is unable to deliver oxygen to body tissue, including that of the brain, heart and muscle.
The exact ramifications of high levels of carboxyhemoglobin are not entirely known, but potential consequences of long-term, low level exposure include changes in heart and lung tissue.
Although household and environmental factors such as stoves, heaters and automobiles are potential sources of carbon monoxide exposure, the most likely source of elevated carboxyhemoglobin overall is second-hand cigarette smoke.
And according to Dr. Yee’s study, the younger the child, the greater the potential level of exposure.
“The physiology of children, especially the youngest, is different from that of adults,” said Dr. Yee. “Children breathe in a greater amount of air per body weight compared to adults.”
Dr. Yee stressed the importance of education in helping to change parents’ smoking habits, especially around children. He thinks that the right blend of physician intervention and technology could have positive benefits.
Anesthesiologists: Physicians providing the lifeline of modern medicine. Founded in 1905, the American Society of Anesthesiologists is an educational, research and scientific association with 43,000 members organized to raise and maintain the standards of the medical practice of anesthesiology and improve the care of the patient.