Introduction: In utero and/or childhood environmental tobacco smoke exposure is well known to adversely affect lung function and to depreciate child's health in many ways. Fewer studies have assessed the long-term effects on COPD development and disease severity in later adulthood.
Methods: COPD patients were interviewed using a structured questionnaire regarding their personal as well as the smoking habits of their parents. Data were compared with the disease history, e.g. COPD exacerbation rate, and their lung function data.
Results: Between 2003 and 2004 COPD patients were recruited a) in a private practice specialized in pulmonary medicine (n = 133) and b) in a hospital (n = 158). 75% of their fathers and only 15.4 of all mothers smoked regularly. COPD patients from smoking mothers had lower FEV1 predicted than those raised in household without maternal smoking exposure: 39.4 +/- 9.5% vs. 51.9 +/- 6.0% (P = 0.037). Fathers had no effect on FEV1 regardless if they are smokers or non-smokers. Rate of severe exacerbations requiring hospitalization remained unaffected by parental second hand smoke exposure.
Conclusion: Maternal smoking negatively affects lung function of their offspring even in late adulthood when they develop COPD. It even aggravates the cumulative effect of active cigarette consumption. Clinical course of the COPD remained unaffected.