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Study: Apartments Pose High Secondhand Smoke Hazards

Research shows that smoke can spread through cracks in fixtures, pipes, shared venitlation systems and windows.


The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health announced Wednesday that multi-unit housing can expose hazardous secondhand smoke to non-smokers living adjacent to those who do smoke.

Since 2006, secondhand smoke has been classified by the California Air Resources Board as a "toxic air contaminant" that can lead to death, serious illnesse, and a overall health hazards.


Image courtesy Associated Press
Image courtesy Associated Press

Research shows that residents could be exposed to dangerous levels of smoke through cracks in fixtures, electrical outlets, pipes, vents and baseboards, as well as shared venitlation systems and windows.

The study shows that 30 to 50 percent of air came from other units and all buildings, regardless of when they were built, were affected. For non-smokers, the tobacco smoke particles in their housing units can reach levesl equal to and surpassing those of a smoky bar or casino.

"More than 41 percent in our country are in multi-unit buildings and just as you can get smells and noises from one unit to another, the same goes for tobacco smoke," said Dr. Johnathan E. Fielding from the Department of Public Health.

With over 7,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke, secondhand smoke is the third leading cause of preventable death in the United States. Secondhand smoke can cause severe damage to young children such as ear infections, frequent asthma attacks, repiratory symptoms and create a greater risk for sudden infant death syndrome, the leading cause of death in healthy infants.

A 2007 county health survey showed that a majority of those living in L.A. County are in favor of smoke-free housing. Though 60 percent of smokers and 77 percent of non-smokers believe there should be a law seperating smoking and non-smoking places, the multi-unit structure of the units can still pose a threat because smoke can transfer unit to unit.

"Sixty-six percent agrees or strongly agrees that smoking in an apartment or condominium puts people in other units at risk. And parents who try to protect their child by having smoke free homes have even greater understanding of the harm to others by smoking in units. With 81.5% of them agreeing that smoking in units puts others in the building at risk," said Dr. Jonathan M. Sammet.

The only way to fully protect people from secondhand smoke is to completely rid of smoking in all indoor spaces. While seperating smokers from non-smokers, cleaning the air and ventilating buildings is a progressive step, it does not completely protect non-smokers.

Jackie Eco, a tenant and property manager of a rent controlled building in Valley Village who spoke at a press conference Wednesday, described how the tenant living below her smokes to the point where it, "literally seeps ups through the floor causing me to have severe asthma attacks and allergic reactions." 

Eco temporarily moved out of her apartment to aviod the smoke.

"I would like to know why I am not being protected," she said. "Why is my health being compromised for his unhealthy activities?"

County policymakers are working to implement smoke-free housing laws. Mayors from all over thecounty are urging fellow cities to follow their actions.


ANYONE who visits smells the smoke in my apartment. It seeps up through the cracks in my floor – up through the carpeting, not to mention elsewhere. I’m open to have more studies and news stories done there for proof. My ongoing asthma attacks and allergies from it are just par for the course. Imagine if I had kids with me as well - ? Unfortunately, many do. I am the Property Manager as well as a tenant and I should not have cigarette smoke (loaded with carcinogens) literally pumped into my apartment daily from my chainsmoking neighbor with his windows closed. Of course, when it’s cold and/or late, I close my windows, too! I found out the hard way that mult-unit dwellers share the air and building materials are porous. Jackie

Did you know my CLOTHES & belongings are DRENCHED in his cigarette smoke!?!? Come on over and take a whiff!!! If you pay more for a pack of cigarettes to pursue your cancer-causing habit, then YOU should pay more for special housing - NOT people (some with children) who have ASTHMA. It's a FACT that YOU SHARE THE AIR in multi-unit buildings. I had to find out the HARD WAY. Enough said.

I have read plenty of neurotic junk science on second hand smoke (SHS)but this gets first prize. There are 4,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke (there are 2,000 in coffee) of which only 65 are vaguely carcinogenic. None exist in any quantity to cause harm. I can only assume some of the people commenting here are displaying symptoms of physcho-somaticism, it's all the mind or fancy a fat payout from the courts.

In 1991 an experiment was done on side stream smoke (SSS). SSS is undiluted by inhalation via a smoker's lungs where 95% of the chemicals are ingested. The setting was a room 20 feet by 24 feet by 9 feet, sealed and unventilated and the "sniffer" was 6 inches away from the lit cigarette. It produced the following results whereby you would have to be surrounded by the following number of smokers to reach a dangerous level.

Benzene 13,300 smokers.
Polonium 750,000.
Nickel 40,000.
Acetone 178,000
Benzo(a)pyrence 220,000.

So you are telling me smoke travelling 10-20 feet diluted by other air is a health hazard? You remind me of alchemists of the middle ages. Benzene constitutes 3% of a gallon of gas, and is often unburned in a car engine, the by product is benzo(a)pyrene. Your car will kill far more people before a smoker.

valerie.... sorry to says that .. but you are avery stupid wife... you are maybe not aware of the fact that secondhandsmoke DOES NOT EXIST!!! even if millions of people do make propaganda for it! look how you live, look where you are working, what you are doing the whole day... i am sure that your asthma attacks will come from your surrounding but NEVER NEVER from smoke!! but .. welll it is so easy to blame the smokers for all the evil in the world.... even for all lies of medicin and pharmaceutical lobbies.. i will not even wondering if the 3nd world war is comming and they will ALSO blame the smokers for it.. it is people like YOU, who are ill, you are blaming smokers for all , each and evey bad which occures in their live... and YES .. you are not the only, idiots are much in the world

Your news story says that "A study" shows that etc, etc.

WHAT STUDY?? Please have the courtesy to identify this anonymous study to your readers.

To Valarie: I presume that you live in California, so the following website may be of interest to you and any other readers who are subjected to tobacco smoke in your apartment:

I am not a lawyer, however, you may have legal action against both the landlord (although you indicate your landlord is awesome, you didn't indicate how he/she has assisted you) and the smoking tenant for causing your apartment not to be habitable or to be unlivable.

Under the California Department of Consumer Affairs there is an implied warranty of habitability that requires the landlord to provide you with a safe and "habitable" place to live. The rental unit must be fit for occupation by human beings and that it substantially complies with state and local building and health codes that materially affect tenants' health and safety. 129*

129* Green v. Superior Court (1974) 10 Cal.3d 616, 637-638 [111 Cal.Rptr. 704, 719]; Civil Code Sections 1941, 1941.1

Also: A rental unit may be considered uninhabitable (unlivable) if it contains a lead hazard that endangers the occupants or the public, or is a substandard building because, for example, a structural hazard, inadequate sanitation, or a nuisance endangers the health, life, safety, property, or welfare of the occupants or the public. 138* Secondhand smoke at a minimum is considered a nuisance.

138* Code Section 1941.1 paragraph 1, Health and Safety Code Sections 17920.3, 17920.10.

Your landlord likely has a nuisance clause in his or her lease. When second-hand smoke becomes a nuisance to a resident, landlords and property managers may enforce that nuisance clause to include second-hand smoke, just as they would for loud music or pets. It is the property owners' building. There is nothing about second hand smoke that makes it different from any other normally restricted activity in multi-unit dwellings and they CAN ask your neighbor to take the smoking off the property. That is their right as a property owner.

I happened to be luck enough to attend the event; and got a chance to tell my story; which includes fleeing from my condo (which I still own and now rent a place just to keep away from my chain smoking neighbors. With a 2 & a 3 year old; I just can't dare expose them to so much smoke. My place fills up like casinos use to be back in the days...

I was lucky enough to have one of my patients send this link to me on the second hand smoke problems. Ironically, she was in my office the prior day and we got on this subject because I am a victim of this exact situation as well as an allergy and asthma sufferer, AND I work in the medical field. For over 3 months I have tried to maturely address this issue with my neighbor, whom by the way, refuses to smoke inside his house because he doesn't want smoke in there - yet, he chain smokes ( lives and works at home ) 24-7
I have gone to the ER twice because I couldn't control my asthma attack, I have gone through 4 times the amount of albuterol ( rescue inhaler ) than I am supposed to be using, etc. It is poisoning me. My landlord is awesome, and has tried to help me, but the neighbor does it anyway, and thinks that I can't see him smoking, etc. He is an idiot - nobody has to SEE smoke to have themselves gagging on inhaled second hand smoke. I am at my wits end, cannot go home, cannot sleep, etc., and the neighbor tells me to shut my windows - well, guess what? they ARE shut !!!! I am moving because of this. I have to incur the cost, time off work, frustration, and and physical activity of another move - all because he is inconsiderate, uncooperative and and completely self centered individual. I have passed this link onto my landlord, who is wonderful, so that maybe it will help him to address this tenant with a bit more force, should he need to. As for me, I am leaving before my health gets any worse. So glad to see that I am not the only one who is dealing with this and left to fend for herself, without any support or agency to turn to for help -

If I was being poisoned by chemical like cyanide, that is grounds of federal imprisonment, yet there is cyanide, carbon monoxide, etc., in second hand smoke that I am stuck breathing in my $3050 a month apartment -


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