Infants born into family with atleast one parent smoking have five times as much cotinine, a nicotine byproduct, in their urine than infants whose parents are non-smokers, according to a report published in the journal, Archives of Disease in Childhood.
The study was led by researchers from the University of Leicester. They looked at 104 12-week-old infants (71 with at least one parent who smoked and 33 with nonsmoking parents) and found that having a mother who smoked quadrupled urine cotinine levels. Having a father who smoked doubled cotinine levels in an infant's urine. Cotinine is just one of thousands of potentially harmful nicotine byproducts that can accumulate in infants' bodies.
'Our findings clearly show that by accumulating cotinine, babies become heavy passive smokers secondary to the active smoking of parents,' Dr. Mike Wailoo of the University of Leicester and colleagues write in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.
It is also found that cotinine levels increased further if the babies are sleeping with the parents or are in lower temperature rooms and it is seen that most of the babies affected by smoking come from poorer homes.
'Babies affected by smoke tend to come from poorer homes, which may have smaller rooms and inadequate heating,' the study authors wrote. 'Higher cotinine levels in colder times of year may be a reflection of the other key factors which influence exposure to passive smoking, such as poorer
ventilation or a greater tendency for parents to smoke indoors in winter.'
The researchers also noted that sleeping with a parent is a known risk factor for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). They suggest that one reason for this could be an infant's proximity to parents' clothing or other objects contaminated with smoke particles.
Over 6,000 children under the age of five die each year in United States alone due to second hand smoking. It causes respiratory diseases in children. Children of smoking parents 'had significantly reduced lung function similar to that seen in smokers.
If a woman smokes while she is pregnant, her baby is more likely to be born pre-term (before nine months) and weigh less than other babies.' They are also likely to have asthma, allergies, ear infections and eczema.
Paolo Vineis, a professor of environmental epidemiology at Imperial College London, in a report published in the January 28, 2007 online issue of the British Medical Journal found that children exposed to secondhand smoke on a daily basis have more than triple the risk of lung cancer and an increased risk of other respiratory problems in life than those who grew up in a smoke-free environment.
The UK is about to introduce laws banning smoking in public places but this law wouldn't discourage people from smoking in their homes. Legislation to prevent smoking in the presence of babies is not practical and cannot be monitored. An effort can be made by educating the parents about the effects of second hand smoking on their babies.
'It's a matter of changing behavior and if we can alert people to this then we might have an impact.'Accoding Dr.Wailoo.