Children are more likely to develop asthma if their father was exposed to second-hand smoke when he was a child, according to a study published in the European Respiratory Journal.

Led by University of Melbourne researchers, Mr Jiacheng Liu and Dr Dinh Bui, the study also shows that children’s risk of asthma is even higher if their father was exposed to second-hand smoke and went on to become a smoker.

Researchers Find Asthma Linked To Tobacco Smoking

The researchers say their findings highlight how smoking can damage health not only for smokers and their children, but also their grandchildren

“We found that the risk of non-allergic asthma in children increases by 59% if their fathers were exposed to secondhand smoke in childhood, compared to children whose fathers were not exposed. The risk was even higher, at 72%, if the fathers were exposed to secondhand smoke and went on to smoke themselves,” said researcher Jiacheng Liu.

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In the study, researchers used data from the Tasmanian Longitudinal Health Study (TAHS), one of the world’s largest and longest ongoing respiratory studies.

For this study, researchers included nearly 1,700 children who grew up in Tasmania, their fathers and their paternal grandparents.

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The team compared data on whether the children had developed asthma by age 7 with data on whether the fathers grew up with parents who smoked when they were younger than 15. Researchers also included data on whether the fathers became smokers.

“We can’t be certain of how this damage is passed on through generations, but we think it may be to do with epigenetic changes,” added researcher Shyamali Dharmage.

“This is where factors in our environment, such as tobacco smoke, interact with our genes to modify their expression. These changes can be inherited, but may be partially reversible for each generation.”

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“It’s possible that tobacco smoke is creating epigenetic changes in the cells that will go on to produce sperm when boys grow up,” Dharmage said in a journal news release. “These changes can then be passed on to their children.”

The researchers will now investigate if the increased risk of asthma persists into adult life and whether fathers who were exposed to second-hand smoke as children pass on any increase in allergies or other lung diseases to their children.

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