STUDY OBJECTIVES--To investigate the effects of passive exposure to tobacco smoke and gas cooking at home on respiratory symptoms and lung function of non-smoking women. SETTING--Evidence on the effects of passive smoking and exposure to nitrogen dioxide from gas cooking on the respiratory health of adults is limited and variable. Over 97% of women in Singapore do not smoke, and a principal source of indoor air pollution for housewives is passive smoking and gas cooking. DESIGN--This was a cross sectional (prevalence) study of a population based sample of 2868 adults aged 20 to 74 years in Singapore. A structured questionnaire administered by trained interviewers was used to collect data on passive smoking, gas cooking, respiratory symptoms, and other relevant variables. Passive smoking was defined as exposure to cigarette smoke from one or more members of the household who had ever smoked. Gas cooking was defined in terms of the weekly frequency of gas cooking, as well as the frequency with which the respondent's kitchen was filled with heavy cooking fumes (rarely, occasionally, often). Forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) was measured by using a portable Micro-spirometer. Multivariate analyses were used to estimate relative odds of association for respiratory symptoms and FEV1 effect, with adjustment for potential confounding variables. PARTICIPANTS--Of a total of 1438 women in the sample, 1282 women who had never smoked provided questionnaire data and 1008 women provided acceptable readings of FEV1 for analysis. MAIN RESULTS--Passive smoking was significantly associated with greater relative odds of usual or chronic cough and phlegm, wheezing, and breathlessness on exertion, as well as lower FEV1. Greater relative odds of respiratory symptoms were also associated with the weekly frequency of gas cooking, although these results were statistically insignificant. Chronic cough and phlegm and breathlessness on exertion, however, were significantly associated with the frequency with which the kitchen was filled with heavy cooking fumes. A lower FEV1 was found in women who cooked frequently (more than thrice a week). CONCLUSION--Domestic exposure to cigarette smoke and gas cooking is associated with increased risks of respiratory symptoms and impairment of lung function in non-smoking women in Singapore.
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