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Passive smoking during childhood may boost miscarriage risk

A woman lights a cigarette in this illustration picture taken in Paris

(Copyright Reuters 2017)

Non-smoking women who were exposed to ets as children may have an increased risk of miscarriage, a Chinese study suggests.

Although they had never been smokers themselves, the women in the study who lived with two or more smokers as a child, had a 20 percent higher risk of a miscarriage, and those who were exposed to smoke five or more times per week had a 14 percent greater risk of losing a pregnancy, compared with women not exposed to passive smoking in childhood.

Non-smokers who grew up with a smoker in the house, or were around the smoke less than five times per week will not appear until a change in their miscarriage risk.

“Our findings support the adoption of stricter national smoke-free laws and strict enforcement in China, and the promotion of smoke-free homes to protect children, as well as the need for campaigns to change social norms of smoking and passive smoking,” the authors wrote in tobacco control.

Shanshan Yang, a researcher at the Institute of Geriatrics in the Chinese PLA General Hospital in Beijing, and colleagues analyzed survey data for nearly 20,000 women aged 50 years and older who live in Guangzhou, China.

Approximately 57 percent of the women who were exposed to passive smoking during childhood, that is, before the age of 18 years.

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The study has a number of limitations because participants had to rely on memories of childhood, and the researchers were not able to estimate how old the women were when they had their abortions, or if they were exposed to passive smoking during their pregnancy.

Lucy Popova, a researcher with the Georgia State University School of Public Health in Atlanta, said there are significant differences in smoking habits between the U.S. and China.

“In the US, smoking rates between men and women are quite close; in China, very few women smoke while a majority of the men smoke. There are also other factors (indoor smoking policy and the rules, social norms) that may influence the rates of exposure to ets in childhood,” she said.

However, Popover, said the possible biological mechanisms linking secondhand smoke exposure and pregnancy loss would be the same, regardless of where the mother lives.

“So while a study may find different numbers of women with heavy youth exposure to secondhand smoke, the relationship between the exposure and pregnancy loss there will probably still be,” she said.

She pointed out that three other studies, conducted in the united states and in the new report, have also demonstrated that childhood secondhand smoke exposure is associated with pregnancy losses.

Popova added that, according to the U. S. Surgeon General, there are no safe levels of exposure to secondhand smoke, even brief exposure causes direct damage, and the only way to get non-smokers to protect from the dangerous chemicals in secondhand smoke is to eliminate smoking indoors.

The authors of the report did not respond to a request for comment.

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