Secondhand tobacco smoke (SHTS) is a tremendous public health hazard, leading to morbidity and premature mortality worldwide, with racial and ethnic minorities and those of lower socioeconomic status disproportionately affected. Flight attendants were historically exposed to high levels of SHTS in the aircraft cabin. The health effects of active smoking are known to persist for up to a lifetime, but the legacy effects of SHTS exposure have not been well characterized.
Alexis L Beatty, Thaddeus J Haight, and Rita F Redberg
Secondhand tobacco smoke (SHS) is associated with increased risk of respiratory illness, cancer, and cardiovascular disease. Prior to smoking bans on airlines in the late 1980s, flight attendants were exposed to a significant amount of SHS. In the present study, we examine associations between flight attendant SHS exposure and development of respiratory illnesses and cardiovascular disease.Methods:
Between December 2006 and October 2010, three hundred sixty-two flight attendants completed an online questionnaire with information regarding experience as a flight attendant, medical history, smoking history, and SHS exposure. Rates of illnesses in flight attendants were compared with an age and smoking history matched population sample from NHANES 2005-2006. Logistic regression analysis was used to examine the association of reported medical conditions and pre-ban years of exposure.Results:
Compared with the sample from NHANES 2005-2006, flight attendants had increased prevalence of chronic bronchitis (11.7% vs. 7.2%, p < 0.05), emphysema/COPD (3.2% vs. 0.9%, p < 0.03), and sinus problems (31.5% vs. 20.9%, p < 0.002), despite a lower prevalence of medical illnesses including high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, heart failure, cancer, and thyroid disease. Amongst flight attendants who reported never smoking over their lifetimes, there was not a significant association between years of service as a flight attendant in the pre-smoking ban era and illnesses. However, in this same group, there was a significantly increased risk of daily symptoms (vs. no symptoms) of nasal congestion, throat, or eye irritation per 10-year increase of years of service as a flight attendant prior to the smoking ban (OR 2.14, 95% CI 1.41 – 3.24).
David F. Yankelevitz, Claudia I. Henschke, Rowena Yip, Paolo Boffetta, Joseph Shemesh, Matthew D. Cham, Jagat Narula, Harvey S. Hecht
An association between SHTS and CAC was recently reported in a single study, but the quantitative aspects of the relationship are not known.Methods:
A cohort of 3,098 never smokers 40 to 80 years of age, enrolled in the FAMRI-IELCAP (Flight Attendant Medical Research Institute International Early Lung Cancer Action Program) screening program, completed a SHTS questionnaire, and had a low-dose nongated computed tomography scan. The questionnaire provided a quantitative score for total SHTS exposure, as well as separately as a child and as an adult at home and at work; 4 categories of exposure to SHTS were identified (minimal, low, moderate, and high exposure). CAC was graded using a previously validated ordinal scale score that ranged from 0 to 12. Logistic regression analysis of the prevalence and ordered logistic regression analysis of the extent of CAC were performed to assess the independent contribution of SHTS adjusted for age, sex, diabetes, hypercholesterolemia, hypertension, and renal disease. Linear and quadratic regression analyses of CAC and SHTS were performed.Results:
The prevalence of CAC was 24.3% (n �� 754) and was significantly higher in those with more than minimal SHTS exposure compared with those with minimal SHTS exposure (26.4% vs. 18.5%, p �� 0.0001). The adjusted odds ratios for CAC prevalence were 1.54 (95% confidence interval: 1.17 to 2.20) for low SHTS exposure, 1.60 (95% confidence interval: 1.21 to 2.10) for moderate exposure, and 1.93 (95% confidence interval: 1.49 to 2.51) for high exposure. The association of the extent of SHTS with the extent of CAC was confirmed by the adjusted odds ratio (p �� 0.0001).
Eileen McNeely, Steven J. Staffa, Irina Mordukhovich and Brent Coull
Flight attendants at Alaska Airlines reported health symptoms after the introduction of new uniforms in 2011. The airline replaced the uniforms in 2014 without acknowledging harm. To understand possible uniform-related health effects, we analyzed self-reported health symptoms in crew who participated in the Harvard Flight Attendant Health Study between 2007 and 2015, the period before, during, and after the introduction of new uniforms.Methods:
We calculated a standardized prevalence of respiratory, dermatological and allergic symptoms at baseline, as well as during and after uniform changes in 684 flight attendants with a varying number of surveys completed across each time point. We used Generalized Estimating Equations (GEE) to model the association between symptoms at baseline versus the exposure period after adjusting for age, gender and smoking status and weighting respondents for the likelihood of attrition over the course of the study period.Results:
We found the following symptom prevalence (per 100) increased after the introduction of new uniforms: multiple chemical sensitivity (10 vs 5), itchy/irritated skin (25 vs 13), rash/hives (23 vs 13), itchy eyes (24 vs 14), blurred vision (14 vs 6), sinus congestion (28 vs 24), ear pain (15 vs 12), sore throat (9 vs 5), cough (17 vs 7), hoarseness/loss of voice (12 vs 3), and shortness of breath (8 vs 3). The odds of several symptoms significantly increased compared to baseline after adjusting for potential confounders.
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