Study: Apartments Pose High Secondhand Smoke Hazards
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.
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.