New research from the Harvard School of Public Health indicates that second-hand smoke exposure in children aged 11 and younger can increase the probability of developing mental and behavioral disorders by as much as 50 percent.
The research suggests that children exposed to second-hand smoke were twice as likely to develop defects including learning disabilities and ADD or ADHD than children who lived in smoke-free homes.
Data produced by a 2007 national health survey examined the responses of more than 55,000 legal guardians who smoked and lived in households with children aged 11 and under.
The results showed that the key to healthier living for infants could be made by life choices parents and guardians make.
"We estimate that 274,000 cases of the most common neurobehavioral disorders could have been prevented with smoke-free homes," said senior research associate at Harvard, Hillel Alpert in an article in the Huffington Post.
Scientists are continuing research to confirm links between second-hand smoke and its negative effects on children.
A 2008 study in rats found that nicotine exposure during adolescence led to a depression-like state and increased sensitivity to stress and anxiety. Also, an August 2010 study in the Archives of General Psychiatry, found that people exposed to second-hand smoke were more likely to suffer from psychological distress.
Current estimates suggest that anywhere between 4.8 million and 5.5 million children in the U.S. live in households where they are exposed to second-hand smoke.