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The finding comes from the analysis of data on more than 2,000 U.S. children, ages 6 to 11. Nearly 10 percent of the children -- those who had asthma and those who didn't -- had reduced lung function.
The researchers reported a weak link between the children's current exposure to secondhand smoke and airflow obstruction. However, among children with asthma, those whose mother smoked during pregnancy were 2.5 times more likely to have obstructed breathing.
The study was published in the March issue of the journal Chest.
The findings point to a mother's "smoking in pregnancy as the period of secondhand exposure that is more strongly associated with worse lung function in asthmatic children," said the study's lead researcher, Dr. Stacey-Ann Whittaker Brown. She's with the pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine division at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City.
"Maternal smoking in pregnancy may set children with asthma on a trajectory of poor lung function in later childhood, and other studies suggest this effect may be lifelong," Whittaker Brown said in a journal news release.
She said few studies have "analyzed the individual contribution of secondhand smoke exposure during pregnancy or current, ongoing secondhand smoke exposure on the lung function of children. Unfortunately, many children are exposed to both."
Whittaker Brown's team only found an association between smoke exposure during pregnancy and a child's lung function. She said additional studies into this relationship are needed.
"As we learn more about improving asthma outcomes in children, it is important to find out not only what environmental exposures are implicated in poor lung function, but also when those exposures are most harmful," Whittaker Brown said.
-- Robert Preidt
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