Early exposure to smoke is associated with a risk of behavioral disorders in children says a new study.
According to researchers from Inserm and Pierre and Marie Curie University, the association was stronger when exposure took place both during pregnancy and after birth.
Lead researcher Isabella Annesi-Maesano said that exposure of (environmental tobacco smoke) ETS in the postnatal period, alone or in association with exposure during pregnancy, increased the risk of behavioral disorders in primary school children. In the study, rescuers targeted 5,221 primary school children from six cities.
Prenatal and postnatal exposure to tobacco smoke in the home was assessed using a standardized questionnaire completed by the parents. Behavioral disorders were assessed via the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) used to assess the behavioral and psychosocial functioning of the children, which was also completed by the parents.
The results showed that emotional disorders were associated with exposure to ETS during both the prenatal and postnatal periods, which concerns 21 percent of the children in the study. Conduct disorders were also associated with ETS exposure in these children. The association also exists in cases of prenatal or postnatal exposure alone.
These observations seem to confirm that the nicotine contained in tobacco smoke might have a neurotoxic effect on the brain. During pregnancy, nicotine in tobacco smoke stimulates acetylcholine receptors, and causes structural changes in the brain.
In the first months of life, exposure to tobacco smoke generates a protein imbalance that leads to altered neuronal growth. Isabella said that their data indicated that passive smoking, in addition to the well-known effects on health, should also be avoided because of the behavioral disorders it might cause in children.
The study is published in the Journal PLOS ONE.