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CDC: One in Five Students Exposed to Secondhand Smoke in Cars

iStockPhoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Government health researchers say the number of middle and high school students exposed to secondhand smoke in cars is on the decline.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) looked at surveys of public and private school students over a ten year period and found a gradual drop in the number of kids who said they rode in a car with a smoke -- from 40 percent in 2000 to 22 percent in 2009.

“What's still alarming,” said Brian King with the CDC, “is that in 2009, even among the non-smokers, about one in five students are still exposed to secondhand smoke in cars.”

Exposure in a confined space can increase a number of health risks associated with secondhand smoke.

“Those include everything from ear infections, more severe asthma, acute respiratory infections, delayed lung growth and also sudden infant death syndrome,” King said.

Health risks are increased because of the small space of a vehicle and, King said, cracking a window doesn't help. “There's still dangerous levels of secondhand smoke in vehicles regardless of whether you have windows open,” he said.

“The more confined and the more enclosed, the higher levels there are of exposure and there is what we call a dose-response relationship -- the more exposure the more adverse health effects.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio