Secondhand Smoke and Cholesterol in Children

Ellis J. Neufeld, Michele Mietus-Snyder, Alexa S. Beisner, and
Annette L. Baker, Jane W. Newburger
Circulation 1997;96:1403-1407

Secondhand smoke mania began in 1993 with the release of EPA's risk assessment claiming secondhand smoke caused 3,000 lung cancer deaths annually. But this (cooked-up) statistic was limited to adults and did not include children. As flaky as EPA's risk assessment was concerning secondhand smoke and lung cancer, it was even flakier when it came to kids health claims--lots of studies relying on obviously biased data collection and subjective analysis.

But the public health establishment hasn't given up on exploiting kids for their political purposes. And now, Harvard researchers claim secondhand smoke reduces levels of HDL cholesterol in kids which may increase their risk for atherosclerosis. (HDL is considered a protective cholesterol because it helps remove harmful fat from the blood, thereby reducing the risk of future heart disease. The higher the HDL levels, the better the protection.)

Unfortunately, the new study is a little short of convincing. The researchers studied 161 children referred to the lipid program at Children's Hospital in Boston. They reported the children exposed to secondhand smoke had HDL cholesterol levels 10 percent lower than the children not exposed. BUT:

This research is disheartening. These kids need to be treated for their medical condition. Their low HDL cholesterol levels puts them at increased risk of atherosclerosis-- regardless of exposure to secondhand smoke. Maybe the American Heart Association (one of the funders of this study) should consider spending its resources on research for a treatment, not more junk science.

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