Indoor Air Cleaners Ineffective Solution for Reducing Asthma Symptoms in Children Living with Smokers

Air cleaners have the ability to significantly reduce air pollution in homes with one or more smokers, but they are no solution for asthmatic children.

According to a recent study, air cleaners have the ability to significantly reduce air pollution in homes with one or more smokers, thereby decreasing the rates of daytime asthma symptoms in children living there—but these air cleaners are still no substitute for a smoke-free household.

The researchers reported that the “use of air cleaners in homes of children with asthma was associated with a significant reduction in indoor [particulate matter] concentrations and increase in symptom-free days.”

The study, performed by Johns Hopkins Hospital Children’s Center, focused on 126 families in which there was at least one smoker who smoked more than five cigarettes per day and, children between the ages of six and twelve who had physician-diagnosed asthma and/or controller medication.

The researchers measured the child’s secondhand smoke exposure, asthma morbidity and health care utilization, urine cotinine level, indoor air quality assessment, air nicotine level, and adherence to air cleaner use at the beginning and end of the study, which lasted for six months.

The families first filled out a questionnaire, and then were randomly chosen to be a part of a control, air cleaner, or air cleaner plus health coaching group.

Families in the air cleaner group were given two free-standing air cleaners which were placed into the child’s bedroom and the family living room.

Families in the air cleaner plus health coach groups were given air cleaners as well as at-home health education administered by a nurse, which focused on the threat that secondhand smoke poses to a child.

The control group received no intervention but was given two air cleaners following the completion of the study.

The study discovered no considerable differences between the air nicotine or urine cotinine concentrations of the children between the beginning of the study and follow-up sessions, although a reduction in asthma symptoms was noted.

As a result of these findings, the researchers deemed that, while the air cleaners were helpful to children with asthma, they are not the best answer to aiding asthmatic children in smoking households.

“It is a tenet of public health practice that eliminating a source of contaminant is better than reducing it through an engineering control,” the researchers wrote. “As a result, implementing a smoke-free home policy should be considered, particularly in the homes of children with asthma.”

This study was published online in Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.