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Environmental tobacco smoke linked to reading, math, logic and reasoning declines in children

CINCINNATI A new Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center study shows that exposure to environmental tobacco smoke, even at extremely low levels, is associated with decreases in certain cognitive skills, including reading, math, and logic and reasoning, in children and adolescents.

The study is the largest ever to look at the effects of environmental tobacco smoke on children's health. It is published in the January issue of Environmental Health Perspectives.

"This study provides further incentive for states to set public health standards to protect children from exposure to environmental tobacco smoke," says Kimberly Yolton, PhD, a researcher at the Children's Environmental Health Center at Cincinnati Children's and the study's main author. "We estimate that more than 33 million children in the United States are exposed to levels consistent with the adverse effects seen in this study."

The study's findings translate into nearly a three-point decline in a standardized reading test and nearly a two-point decline in a standardized math test, given an average score of 100 and a modest increase in exposure to environmental tobacco smoke.

Logic and reasoning skills were tested in a task that involved the assembly of blocks. This task evaluated a child's ability to visually organize and reason in constructing a design quickly and accurately. The study found a .55 decline in block-design scores, given an average score of 10 and a modest increase in exposure.

"These declines may not be clinically meaningful for an individual child, but they have huge implications for our society because millions of children are exposed to environmental tobacco smoke in the United States," says Dr. Yolton.

The study is based on data gathered from 1988-94 for the third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES-III), conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
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Contact: Jim Feuer
jim.feuer@cchmc.org
513-636-4656
Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center
4-Jan-2005


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