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Many children still breathe secondhand smoke

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that even though smoke exposure is down, 58 million Americans still breathe secondhand smoke. It said two of every five children, including seven in 10 black children, are still exposed.

Secondhand smoke causes early death and disease in nonsmokers. There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke; even brief exposure can be harmful.

The findings on secondhand smoke:

• About 58 million Americans—1 in 4 nonsmokers—are still exposed to secondhand smoke. Some population groups are exposed at much higher rates than the population as a whole.

• Nearly half of black nonsmokers are exposed, including 7 in 10 black children.

• About 2 in 5 children (about 15 million) ages 3 to 11 years old are exposed.

• More than 2 in 5 nonsmokers who live below the poverty level are exposed.

• More than 1 in 3 nonsmokers who live in rental housing are exposed. About 80 million Americans live in multi-unit housing, many of whom rent.

For more details, visit the Vital Signs webpage at www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/

Alcohol poisoning kills thousands in U.S.

Six Americans die from alcohol poisoning daily on average, and mortality rates are highest among middle-aged men, federal health authorities reported Tuesday.

The report is the first in a decade by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to tally alcohol poisonings for the entire U.S. population. Most previous analyses looked at certain groups, in particular young people.

The agency found that an average of 2,221 people died of alcohol poisoning each year between 2010 and 2012. Three-quarters of the deaths occurred among 35- to 64-year-olds, the report found, and about three-quarters were men. The death rate was highest among men aged 45 to 54.

“Most previous studies have looked at college kids and young people, but the problem is bigger than that,” said Dr. Robert Brewer, who heads the alcohol program at the CDC. “It was surprising that the number of deaths was so concentrated among middle-age adults.”

The report described death from alcohol poisoning as “a bigger problem than previously thought” but said it was impossible to tell whether the death rate had risen because researchers have changed how they track the data in recent years.

When large amounts of alcohol are consumed in a short period of time, blood alcohol levels rise sharply, overwhelming the body’s ability to respond. Excessive alcohol intake can shut down parts of the brain that control breathing, body temperature and heart rate.

Such deaths are typically the result of binge drinking at high intensity, the report said. It defined binge drinking as four or more drinks in one “occasion” for women, and five or more drinks for men.

About 38 million adults report binge drinking an average of four times a month, according to the report, but the vast majority of binge drinkers — about 90 percent — are not alcoholics.

Alcohol dependence was a contributing cause in just one-third of the deaths, the report found.

The highest rate of deaths from alcohol poisoning occurred among Native Americans and Native Alaskans, with 49 deaths per 1 million people — far above the approximately nine deaths per 1 million people that is the average for the country. The bulk of deaths were among non-Hispanic whites, who made up 67 percent of all deaths.

The report also provided a breakdown by state. The lowest death rate was in Alabama, followed by Texas, Illinois and Virginia. The highest rate was in Alaska, driven by the native population there, followed by New Mexico, Rhode Island and Arizona.

--New York Times News Service