Background: Smoking is a major risk factor for cot death. Many infants smoke passively as a result of parental smoking. This paper reports on infants exposed to a smoking environment and how they accumulate metabolites of cigarette smoke, such as cotinine, which may be physiologically harmful.
Aim: To assess cotinine levels in infants of smoking parents.
Method: Cotinine excretion in urine was assessed in 104 infants, of whom 71 had smoking parents and 33 had non-smoking parents. All cotinine levels were measured at approximately 12 weeks of age. The subjects were selected from a database of infants in developmental physiological studies which assessed the impact of various factors on early postnatal development.
Results: On average babies with at least one parent who was a current cigarette smoker excreted 5.58 (95% CI 3.4 to 9.5) times as much cotinine in the urine as did the babies of non-smoking parents. Maternal smoking was the largest contributing factor. Co-sleeping (p = 0.037) and the minimum room temperature (p = 0.028) were significant contributory factors.
Conclusion: Infants from smoking households accumulate cotinine, a metabolite of nicotine, which may have a detrimental effect on the cardiorespiratory system.
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Competing interests: None.
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