Given the rising health concerns over second-hand smoke, leading Canadian source for children health AboutKidsHealth.ca investigates what options are available to parents to help protect their children.
You don’t smoke. Your workplace, your local restaurant, your child’s school, even your local park is smoke-free. You ask smokers not to smoke in your home. And yet, your child is still exposed to second-hand smoke. For millions of children who live in apartments and condos, exposure to second-hand smoke from elsewhere in the building is a daily reality.
Deborah Shub was pregnant when the smell of smoke in the condo she shares with her husband really started to bother her. “It was waking me up at night,” she says. “We got in touch with the property manager and the condo board. We figured it was a ventilation problem.”
“With a ten-month-old daughter, it’s really upsetting,” Shub says. “We end up having to open doors to the outside no matter what the weather is like, to try and get the smoke out.” She and her husband are on the verge of ordering an $800 air filter as part of their search for clean air. They’re also looking for a house to buy. “very time the smoke gets worse, the search intensifies. The situation obviously isn’t stopping, and I don’t want my daughter to be in this environment.”
The health effects of second-hand smoke in children are well known. They include a higher risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS); less lung capacity and more breathing problems such as asthma, cough, bronchitis, croup, and pneumonia; worse asthma symptoms; and more ear infections. The effects are not only physical: children exposed to second-hand smoke have lower test scores in math, reading, and logic, and may also have more behaviour problems.
What can families do about second-hand smoke in multi-unit housing?
If a neighbour’s smoke is entering your apartment or condo, you do have some options:
- Try to figure out where the second-hand smoke is coming from and how it is entering your unit.
- Talk to the neighbour who smokes. They may not be aware their smoke is causing a problem, and may be willing to make some changes.
- Document the problems, including the dates and times that second-hand smoke was a problem, any health effects your family is experiencing, and your efforts to solve the problem. Talk to other neighbours and see if they are also having smoke problems.
- Contact your landlord, tenant association, co-op or condo board to inform them about the issue. Landlords in rental properties must act on all reasonable complaints from tenants.
- If you are a landlord or condo owner, making repairs or changes to the building, such as sealing cracks, weather-stripping doors, and upgrading ventilation systems may help with smoke problems.
- Advocate making part or all of the building smoke-free. Various associations have information about your rights and the benefits and business implications of going smoke-free.
Go to AboutKidsHealth.ca to find more children’s health advice, or http://www.aboutkidshealth.ca/En/News/NewsAndFeatures/Pages/Smokers-next-door.aspx to read the full article about second-hand smoke.
AboutKidsHealth.ca is the leading Canadian online source for trusted child health information, and has a scope and scale that is unique in the world. Developed by SickKids Learning Institute in collaboration with over 300 paediatric health specialists, the site provides parents, children, and community health care providers with evidence-based information about everyday health and complex medical conditions, from second-hand smoke to SIDS. AboutKidsHealth.ca adheres to rigorous quality standards for the creation and review of health information.
Visit www.aboutkidshealth.ca to find out more.
For more information, please contact:
Sue Mackay, Communications
The Hospital for Sick Children
555 University Avenue