Smokers' Babies Take on Cotinine
Nicotine Byproduct Found in Urine of Infants Whose Parents Smoke Cigarettes
June 19, 2007 -- The chemical traces of cigarette smoke may show up in
babies of parents who smoke, according to a new study.
The study shows that cotinine, a chemical released when the body breaks down
nicotine, is more abundant in urine samples from smokers' babies than from
It's not clear how cotinine levels affect babies, but exposure to tobacco
smoke isn't healthy, note the researchers, who included Mike Wailoo, MD, FRCP,
a senior lecturer in the child health department of England's University of
Wailoo and colleagues analyzed urine samples from 104 babies who were about
10-12 weeks old.
Most of the babies -- 68% -- had at least one parent who smoked
Overall, 62% of the babies had mothers and fathers who smoked. Eighteen
percent only had a mother who smoked. The remaining 20% only had a father
Those parents smoked 16 cigarettes per day, on average.
The babies of parents who smoked had cotinine levels that were more than
five times higher than babies of nonsmoking parents.
Maternal smoking had the biggest effect, quadrupling the babies' cotinine
levels. Paternal smoking nearly doubled the babies' cotinine levels.
"Our findings clearly show that by accumulating cotinine, babies become
heavy passive smokers secondary to the active smoking of parents," write
They note that it's up to parents to decide not to smoke around their
children. "The well-recognized maternal desire to protect the child is the
great hope for the future," Wailoo's team writes.