The smoking gun behind secondhand smoke

By Ann Griswold • Published: March 23rd, 2009
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Most expectant parents do all they can to create a healthy baby, including going nine months without alcohol or cigarettes. But a University of Rochester study highlights the importance of continuing these healthy habits throughout your baby’s childhood. The research reveals that non-smoking women who were exposed to smoke as children are sixty-eight percent more likely than other women to have fertility problems as adults.

The researchers studied nearly five-thousand nonsmoking women who had been exposed to smoke for at least six hours a day as children. Forty percent… or nearly half… of these women had fertility issues, ranging from difficulty conceiving to multiple miscarriages.

The researchers say their findings suggest a genetic link between secondhand smoke and fertility. And they’re not the first ones to discover such a link: Several studies have shed light on the relationship between toxic chemicals and disease, and many experts say our reproductive health is influenced by the food we eat and the air we breathe. Scientists at Washington State University find that rats exposed to pesticides continue to have high infertility rates, even after four generations.

Future work will examine the effects of secondhand smoke on grand- or great-grandchildren. While efforts have been made to curb the problem, sixty-five percent of non-smokers are still exposed to secondhand smoke. Many health experts say efforts to reduce pollutants and health risks might not pay off for several generations, but as the saying goes, “The future begins now.”