Centers for Disease Control (CDC)

On July 21, 2005, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the Third National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals. The report provides exciting news, including a dramatic reduction in exposure to secondhand smoke (from 1988-2002). Fewer adults and children are being exposed to secondhand smoke. The report also suggests the need for more research into health impacts of exposure.

According to CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding. "Exposure to secondhand smoke continues to plummet and blood lead levels in children are way down. However, many challenges remain. CDC is steadfast in its commitment to health protection, including protection from environmental threats."

In 2004, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued a warning that all people at risk for heart disease should avoid all indoor places that allow smoking because short-term exposure to secondhand smoke creates an increased risk of heart attacks. The warning followed the publication of the Helena, Montana, Heart Attack Study in the British Medical Journal, which found a significant decrease in heart attacks when the community enacted a smokefree air law in all indoor workplaces and public places. The CDC also stated that doctors should be sure to advise their patients about the increased heart attack risk with even a short period of secondhand smoke exposure.

In 2003, the CDC released The Second National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals. The report found that serum cotinine levels in U.S. nonsmokers, "compared with levels measured during the period 1991-1994 for nonsmokers, decreased 58 percent for children, 55 percent for adolescents, and 75 percent for adults. These declines support the effectiveness of public health efforts to reduce environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) exposure during the 1990s." An updated CDC report on the exposure of the U.S. population to environmental chemicals, including secondhand smoke, is scheduled for publication in 2005. Please return to this page as we will add the new report as soon as it becomes available.

In 1994, the CDC released The First National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals. It measured serum cotinine (metabolic residue from nicotine exposure measured in blood) in nearly 20,000 U.S. nonsmokers during the time period of 1991-1994. It found that exposure to tobacco smoke was practically universal in U.S. society; with nearly 90% of nonsmokers have significant daily exposure to secondhand smoke. It is interesting to note that people's actual levels of exposure were higher than their self-reported levels of exposure (meaning that people were being exposed without even knowing it).

The CDC's Tobacco Information and Prevention Source (TIPS) section has information and resources on secondhand smoke, including fact sheets, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports (MMWR), and journal articles. The TIPS site also includes Best Practices for Comprehensive Tobacco Control Programs, and an Online Toolkit for Taking Action Against Secondhand Smoke.