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Father’s smoking before conception raises baby’s asthma risk

Dads who smoke before conception raise asthma risk in baby by 70%

Adrian O'Dowd

Tuesday, 09 September 2014

Men who smoke before their future child is conceived are raising the risk of their future baby having asthma, according to a study presented at the European Respiratory Society (ERS) International Congress in Munich, Germany this week.

Norwegian researchers said their findings added to growing evidence from animal studies that suggest the father’s exposures before parenthood can harm his child.

It is already well known that the mother’s environment plays a key role in child health, but less is known about what impact a father’s health has.

The research, described as the first study in humans to analyse the link between a father’s smoking habits before conception and a child’s asthma, analysed the smoking habits of 13,499 men and women via a questionnaire.

It also assessed the year of birth, asthma and hayfever for 26,945 offspring aged 2-51 years from a mixture of never-smoking parents and parents who smoked only prior to conception.

The researchers analysed the link in both mothers and fathers and looked at the number of years a person had smoked prior to conception, the incidence of asthma in children and whether the parent had quit before the baby was conceived.

They found that fathers who smoked only before conception increased the risk of offspring’s non-allergic asthma by 70%, while fathers who smoked 10 years before conception raised their child’s asthma risk by 50%.

Fathers who smoked in adolescence (before the age of 15) tripled their offspring’s asthma risk even if they had quit smoking five years before the child’s birth.

In contrast, the researchers observed no link between the mother’s smoking prior to conception and a child’s asthma.

Lead author Dr Cecilie Svanes, from the University of Bergen, Norway, said: “This study is important as it is the first study looking at how a father’s smoking habit pre-conception can affect the respiratory health of his children.

“Given these results, we can presume that exposure to any type of air pollution, from occupational exposures to chemical exposures, could also have an effect.

“It is important for policymakers to focus on interventions targeting young men and warning them of the dangers of smoking and other exposures to their unborn children in the future.”

At this year’s congress, the ERS is launching the Healthy Lungs for Life campaign to raise awareness of the importance of healthy lungs through a range of events, projects and promotional activities.

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