UW study shows smoking in cars hazardous to health

    WATERLOO, ON, March 20 /CNW/ - A new study from the University of
Waterloo is one of the first to show that smoking in a car poses a potentially
serious health hazard to occupants -- particularly children -- and that common
methods of ventilation do not eliminate the hazard.
    The Waterloo study concludes that tobacco smoke pollution (TSP), also
called second-hand smoke, reaches unhealthy levels in cars, even under
realistic ventilation conditions. The chronic nature of highly concentrated
TSP exposure in cars constitutes a potentially serious health hazard,
particularly among children, who are generally more vulnerable to the impact
of environmental insults.
    "Smoking even a single cigarette in a car generates extremely high
average levels of tobacco smoke pollution and exceeded the levels of a smoky
pub," says Taryn Sendzik, a UW graduate student who conducted the study with
UW psychology professor Geoffrey Fong and with Mark Travers and Andrew Hyland,
two researchers from Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, N.Y.
    "Tobacco smoke pollution, which is easily inhaled deep into the lungs,
poses a serious health hazard to children because the car's small cabin space
contributes to concentrated exposure," says Fong, who is principal
investigator of the International Tobacco Control Policy Evaluation Project
(ITC). The ITC is conducting studies of the impact of tobacco control
policies, such as smoke-free laws, in 15 countries, including Canada, the
United States, China, France, Germany, Thailand and Malaysia.
    The findings of the study, entitled An Experimental Investigation of
Tobacco Smoke Pollution in Cars, are presented in a special report of the
Ontario Tobacco Research Unit, which provided partial funding for the
research. TSP is a complex mixture of poisonous gases and chemicals, including
hydrogen cyanide, carbon monoxide, arsenic, and benzene. It has been
designated as a known human carcinogen by a number of regulatory agencies
including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the International
Agency for Research on Cancer, a part of the World Health Organization.
    In the study, TSP levels were measured in 18 different cars. Drivers
smoked a single cigarette in their cars in each of five controlled
air-sampling conditions. Each condition varied the car's movement, air
conditioning, window position and combinations of those airflow influences.
    The carefully created conditions captured a wide range of air
flow/ventilation environments from very little ventilation to all four windows
open all the way while the car was moving. Air quality readings were measured
using a portable air-monitoring device, with the collector tube located in the
back seat at approximately the level of a child's head in a car seat.
    "Smoking just a single cigarette in a car generated extremely high
average levels of TSP in the condition with the least airflow, specifically a
motion-less car with all windows closed," said Sendzik. "The levels found
under this no-ventilation condition are equivalent to more than 100 times the
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's 24-hour standard for fine particle
    Even in moderate ventilation conditions -- air conditioning or having the
smoking driver hold the cigarette next to a half-open window while driving --
the average levels of TSP still reached significantly high levels.
    There has been a recent surge of jurisdictions that have banned smoking
in cars with children, including in the states of Arkansas, Louisiana and
California in the U.S., and in two Australian states.
    In Canada, Nova Scotia became the first province late last year to
legislate a ban on smoking in cars carrying children, after the town of
Wolfville, N.S., passed a municipal bylaw banning the practice in November. A
number of Canadian provinces (British Columbia, New Brunswick and Prince
Edward Island) are considering a ban.
    In Ontario, Premier Dalton McGuinty has announced that the Liberal
Government will introduce such legislation in the new session of that
province's legislative assembly.
    Fong says "the proposed legislation, along with a strong educational
campaign, is what is needed to protect our children from this potentially
significant health hazard, as indicated by the findings of our study."

For further information:

For further information: Geoffrey Fong, professor of psychology, (519)
888-4567 ext. 35811; Taryn Sendzik, graduate student, (519) 594-1670; Michael
Strickland, UW media relations, (519) 888-4777

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