Cincinnati Childrens hospital logo According to a latest study, asthmatic boys when exposed to environmental tobacco smoke are more vulnerable to depression, aggression, hyperactivity, and other behavioral problems. Even low levels of tobacco are considered to affect behavioral patterns. This research was conducted by the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

Around 220 children were studied for this research, out of which more than half were boys. An essential criteria of this study, was that other than asthma these children should not suffer from any other mental or physical health and also that they are exposed to at least 5 cigarettes a day.

The investigators of this study state that, girls were exposed to higher levels of tobacco smoke as compared to boys, however, this did not lead to a change in their behavioral patterns. According to them, when boys were exposed to double tobacco smoke, their behavioral patterns increased by 50 percent.

Kimberly Yolton, Ph.D., a researcher at the Cincinnati Children’s Environmental Health Center, and the study’s lead author says, “These findings should encourage us to make stronger efforts to prevent childhood exposure to tobacco smoke, especially among higher risk populations, such as children with asthma.”

Parents of the studied children revealed that these children were on an average exposed to 13 cigarettes a day. Usually parental estimates are used when studying the amount of smoke exposure in children, however, even parents estimation may not always prove to be accurate, says Dr. Yolton. Thus the level of cotinine was measured in the respective child’s blood. Cotinine is said to be a by-product of nicotine and this is often being measured to estimate the level of tobacco smoke exposure.

Other than these, other factors were also kept in mind, like the parents’ income and education, asthma severity and medications used, and also parental mental health. Other factors like physical and nurturing qualities of the home, whether the mother was smoking during pregnancy, etc. helped the researchers in strengthening their findings related to environmental tobacco exposure.

Supposedly no concrete evidence is available to reveal the reason behind the behavioral reaction of children when exposed to tobacco smoke. However, Dr. Yolton says that they do have a little data to prove that the nicotine in tobacco smoke, affects the development and functioning of the nervous system.

According to the investigators, few studies have been able to connect tobacco smoke and depression. They conclude that a more detailed analysis is required to reveal the difference in behavioral pattern to tobacco smoke between girls and boys.

This project was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health.

Their findings, before print, were published online by the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics.