site map



Health news:
June 2010 - Dec 2013

Minimizing breast cancer risk

May 2010

Time to move beyond salt ?

Salt hypothesis vs. reality

Is sodium bad?

April 2010

Salt studies: the latest score

From Dahl to INTERSALT

Salt hypothesis' story

March 2010

Salt war

Do bone drugs work?

Diabetes vs. drugs, 3:0?

February 2010

The MMR vaccine war: Wakefield vs. ?

Wakefield proceedings: an exception?

Who's afraid of a littl' 1998 study?

January 2010

Antibiotic children

Physical activity benefits late-life health

Healthier life for New Year's resolution


December 2009

Autism epidemic worsening: CDC report

Rosuvastatin indication broadened

High-protein diet effects


November 2009

Folic acid cancer risk

Folic acid studies: message in a bottle?

Sweet, short life on a sugary diet


October 2009

Smoking health hazards: no dose-response

C. difficile warning

Asthma risk and waist size in women


September 2009

Antioxidants' melanoma risk: 4-fold or none?

Murky waters of vitamin D status

Is vitamin D deficiency hurting you?


August 2009

Pill-crushing children

New gut test for children and adults

Unhealthy habits - whistling past the graveyard?


July 2009

Asthma solution - between two opposites that don't attract

Light wave therapy - how does it actually work?

Hodgkin's lymphoma in children: better alternatives


June 2009

Hodgkin's, kids, and the abuse of power

Efficacy and safety of the conventional treatment for Hodgkin's:
behind the hype

Long-term mortality and morbidity after conventional treatments for pediatric Hodgkin's


May 2009

Late health effects of the toxicity of the conventional treatment for Hodgkin's

Daniel's true 5-year chances with the conventional treatment for Hodgkin's

Daniel Hauser Hodgkin's case: child protection or medical oppression?

April 2009

Protection from EMF: you're on your own

EMF pollution battle: same old...

EMF health threat and the politics of status quo

March 2009

Electromagnetic danger? No such thing, in our view...

EMF safety standards: are they safe?

Power-frequency field exposure

February 2009

Electricity and health

Electromagnetic spectrum: health connection

Is power pollution making you sick?

January 2009

Pneumococcal vaccine for adults useless?

DHA in brain development study - why not boys?

HRT shrinks brains


Bookmark and Share


December 2008

Secondhand smoke, or a second-rate study?

Would you believe if someone told you that secondhand smoke is causing over 40% of all heart attacks? In other words, that nearly as many non-smokers die from ill effects of inhaling cigarette smoke on cardiovascular health, as do those who actually smoke? Probably not - it just doesn't seem logical.

Not so to the authors of a recent CDC (Centers for Disease Control) study, based on hospital records in Pueblo, Colorado. The reason they chose Pueblo is that the city had workplace smoking ban enacted in the July 2003. They found out that in the three years following the enactment, number of heart attack related admissions in Pueblo dropped by an astounding 41%.

At the same time, number of heart-attack-related hospital admissions in two nearby counties, which did not have workplace smoking ban, did not change significantly.

According to the authors - and some others commenting on it - this suggests that secondhand smoke could be "a terrible and under-recognized cause of heart attack deaths in this country". Is this conclusion really based on facts - as it seems to be, at first - or misses something important?

A closer look at the study reveals some gaping holes in how it was conducted, and conclusions drawn. The actual levels of second hand smoke - the very basic subject of the study - were not measured and compared. Only the total of hospital admissions was used, without distinguishing between smokers and non-smokers. It is very likely that the ban, if effectively enforced, has been significantly more beneficial to smokers - already much more exposed to cigarette smoke - than non-smokers.

 Other factors possibly influencing the heart attack rate have not been considered. Even one as significant, and as directly affecting it as the overall rate of smoking. In this time frame, in the Pueblo county it has declined from 26 to 21%. That alone nearly cuts in half the rate presented in the study as related to the effect of secondhand smoke only.

This also indicates that those who still smoke do so less, on average, than before. And that anti-smoking activity in the county is consistent, effective, and likely to be comprehensive, not limited just to workplace smoking. In short, factors that were omitted from the study were probably more significant than that one single assumed factor - lower levels of secondhand smoke in Pueblo's workplace. We can definitely say: too significant to be omitted.

CDC's own official estimate is that less than 7% of cardiovascular deaths in the country are attributable to secondhand smoke. One would think that this huge discrepancy between 7% and 41% would have signaled to the authors that they need to re-examine their study. It didn't. For some reason, they felt that their assumption-based, fact-deprived study construction was good just as it is.

Inflicting secondhand smoke to others is something that no one should do - or be allowed to do - at home, work, public place, or anywhere else. Another thing that shouldn't be tolerated is releasing incompetent, misleading studies by a government agency - or anyone else. Obviously, the reality is different. Just another reminder not to trust "study results" without taking very close look at how it was conducted. R