05/01/2012 11:45 pm ET

Non-Smoking Apartment Residents Frequently Exposed To Secondhand Smoke, Study Finds

If you thought living in a smoke-free apartment was enough to protect you from secondhand smoke, think again.

Thirty-eight percent of people in the study (who were non-smokers) reported smelling tobacco smoke on a weekly basis, and 12 percent said they smelled smoke on a daily basis.

And almost a third of people in the study said that they've smelled tobacco smoke in their apartment buildings, and half of those people said they've even smelled smoke in their own apartment units. (All of these people are non-smokers.)

The research was presented at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies. It included 323 eligible responses from the nationally representative 2011 Social Climate Survey.

The study, conducted by researchers from the American Academy of Pediatrics Julius B. Richmond Center of Excellence, also showed that 41 percent of apartment residents who had kids reported smelling smoke, compared with just 26 percent of residents without kids.

The researchers also found that government housing subsidy recipients were more likely to smell smoke in their apartments than people who didn't receive subsidies.

"This exposure could put children at risk for respiratory diseases and illness if it is persistent or if the child has a significant respiratory illness such as asthma or cystic fibrosis," study researcher Dr. Karen M. Wilson, MD, MPH, FAAP, section head of pediatric hospital medicine at Children's Hospital Colorado and assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, said in a statement.

Apartments aren't the only places where kids are exposed to secondhand smoke. A recent study published in the journal Pediatrics shows that 22 percent high-schoolers and middle-schoolers are exposed to secondhand smoke by riding in a car with a smoker, the Associated Press reported.

While this figure is down from 40 percent in 2000, study researcher Brian King, of the CDC, told the AP that the figure is "certainly problematic."

According to the American Cancer Society, secondhand smoke is a "known human carcinogen," meaning it's known to cause cancer. Breathing in either the smoke that comes from a lighted cigarette, or the smoke that comes out from a person's mouth after he or she has exhaled, is considered dangerous, though smoke directly from the cigarette has higher carcinogen levels than exhaled smoke, according to the ACS.

The Environmental Protection Agency reported that kids who are exposed to secondhand smoke also have increased risks of asthma, pneumonia, bronchitis, middle ear infections and sudden infant death syndrome.