Journal Article

Environmental Tobacco Smoke and Absenteeism Related to Respiratory Illness in Schoolchildren

F. D. Gilliland, K. Berhane, T. Islam, M. Wenten, E. Rappaport, E. Avol, W. J. Gauderman, R. McConnell and J. M. Peters

in American Journal of Epidemiology

Published on behalf of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

Volume 157, issue 10, pages 861-869
Published in print May 2003 | ISSN: 0002-9262
Published online May 2003 | e-ISSN: 1476-6256 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/aje/kwg037
Environmental Tobacco Smoke and Absenteeism Related to Respiratory Illness in Schoolchildren

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Household environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) exposure accounts for substantial morbidity among young children, but the ETS-associated morbidity burden among school-age children is less well defined. Illness-related school absenteeism is a measure of a broad spectrum of adverse effects of ETS exposure in school-age children. The authors investigated the relations between ETS exposure, asthma status, and illness-related school absenteeism in a cohort of 1,932 fourth-grade schoolchildren from 12 southern California communities during January–June 1996. Incidence rates and adjusted relative risks of illness-related absences were determined by using an active surveillance system. The effects of ETS exposure on absenteeism were assessed by using stratified incidence rates and Poisson regression to adjust for sociodemographic factors. ETS exposure was associated with an increased risk of respiratory-illness-related school absences (relative risk (RR) = 1.27, 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.04, 1.56). Children living in a household with two or more smokers were at increased risk of such absences (RR = 1.75, 95% CI: 1.33, 2.30). Children’s asthma status affected their response to ETS. Compared with unexposed children without asthma, children with asthma were at increased risk of respiratory-illness-related school absences when exposed to one (RR = 2.35, 95% CI: 1.49, 3.71) or two or more (RR = 4.45, 95% CI: 2.80, 7.07) household smokers. Children without asthma also had an increased risk if exposed to two or more smokers (RR = 1.44, 95% CI: 1.04, 2.00). Therefore, ETS exposure is associated with increased respiratory-related school absenteeism among children, especially those with asthma.

Keywords: absenteeism; child; respiratory system; respiratory tract diseases; schools; tobacco smoke pollution; Abbreviations: CI, confidence interval; ETS, environmental tobacco smoke; RR, relative risk.

Journal Article.  5831 words. 

Subjects: Public Health and Epidemiology

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