Environmental Toxins


Environmental Tobacco Smoke

Exposure to secondhand smoke is extremely dangerous to health. Secondhand smoke gets into the air when tobacco products are burned in cigarettes, cigars, and pipes. Secondhand smoke, also known as environmental tobacco smoke (ETS), contains thousands of toxic chemicals, many of which are known to be cancer causing. A 2006 Surgeon General report stated that exposing nonsmokers to secondhand smoke at home or work significantly increases the risk of developing heart disease and lung cancer. Secondhand smoke also has adverse effects on children and can lead to respiratory problems, ear infections, and asthma attacks.

Research shows that exposure to even small levels of secondhand tobacco smoke is associated with the development of many serious health problems, including heart disease, cancer, chronic respiratory infections, and asthma. Exposure to secondhand smoke during pregnancy can harm a baby's healthy growth and development for years to come. Exposure to tobacco smoke during pregnancy is associated with abnormal lung function in infancy that can persist through adolescence. Smaller birth weights, premature delivery, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), and miscarriage are also dangers associated with prenatal exposure to secondhand smoke.

There are many things to do to minimize exposure to secondhand smoke:

  • Do not smoke. And don't allow anyone else to smoke in your home or car where smoke gets contained and remains in carpets, clothing, and furniture.
  • If you, another household member, or guest must smoke, do it outdoors and away from children.
  • Ask friends and relatives to avoid smoking near your children.
  • Avoid smoky restaurants and parties. Choosing the non-smoking section is not adequate protection.
  • Choose your caregivers carefully. Make sure they do not smoke or, if they do, ask them not to smoke around your child.
  • Encourage family members and close friends who smoke to quit.

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Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless and tasteless gas. But the danger it poses is real. Carbon monoxide replaces oxygen in your blood and the consequences can be fatal. In the U.S., more people die each year of exposure to carbon monoxide than of any other type of poison.

Carbon monoxide is produced by appliances and other devices that burn gas, petroleum products, wood and other fuels. Sometimes carbon monoxide can accumulate to dangerous levels in your car, home or other poorly ventilated areas. The signs of carbon monoxide poisoning can be subtle, but simple precautions can save your life.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning:

  • Dull headache, the most common early symptom
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Chest pain
  • Confusion
  • Irritability
  • Impaired judgment
  • Loss of consciousness

Carbon monoxide poisoning can be especially dangerous for people who are sleeping or intoxicated. The fumes may be fatal before they realize there's a problem.