We carried out a project to measure air pollution from smoking in some Edinburgh homes and found parents and their children were exposed to levels more than three times higher than recommended limits.
When their homes were tested, the participants were shocked to be told that the average daily level of fine particles from tobacco smoke exceeded the number the World Health Organisation advises as a limit.
Six out of the seven homes tested had fine particle levels higher than the limit of 25 micrograms per cubic metre averaged over 24 hours. Levels were, on average, three times higher than that.
The project was part of the REFRESH (Reducing Families’ Exposure to Second-hand Smoke in the Home) initiative, run by ASH Scotland in partnership with Edinburgh and Aberdeen universities.
It involved families attending the Greendykes Early Years Centre in Craigmillar and was coordinated by a staff member nominated as ‘local champion’. Smoking rates are nearly four times higher in the poorest communities than in the wealthiest, so ASH Scotland and its partners undertook the Greendykes project to support families in an area that has high levels of socioeconomic deprivation.
Most of the seven families, who had 13 children in total (average age three), allowed smoking in some areas of their homes, which were mainly flats.
Following testing, the participants were shown graphs of their pollution readings and given advice on the dangers from second-hand tobacco smoke lingering in their homes.
They were advised levels remained high even if they were opening windows or smoking in a room away from their children.
The measurements also showed just how long smoke hangs around in the air after a cigarette is put out. After seeing the high readings, one of the parents said:
“It was pretty bad. I was shocked because I was thinking the smoke was gone, the fan was sucking the smoke in and it would be gone. But it wasn’t, it was travelling everywhere.”
“It was quite a shock, especially when I saw the graph, it gave you times where it kind of went high-peaked.”
Following the tests, a number of the parents began going outside to smoke and some cut down on their tobacco use.
Three of the households which had chosen to no longer smoke inside took part in follow-up monitoring. The average daily figure of 51 micrograms recorded when their homes were first tested dropped by more than half after they changed their smoking habits, with all of them showing levels below the recommended 24-hour air pollution limit.
Around 100,000 children in Scotland are affected by tobacco smoke in the home, with all the health problems that brings, including chest and ear infections, and a higher risk of meningitis. We know that smoking parents want to protect their children. What we can do is help them to understand how much smoke travels around the home and how long it lingers invisibly in the air.
That is why we are supporting the Scottish Government’s current Take it right outside campaign, encouraging people to take their smoking outdoors, and make their home and car entirely smoke-free.”
PLEASE CONTACT US IF YOU WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT OUR GREENDYKES PROJECT