Exposure of pregnant women to tobacco smoke causes genetic damage in the developing fetus, says a US study.
Earlier studies have shown that smoking during pregnancy causes genetic damage in the developing fetus that can be detected at birth.
Stephen G. Grant, Ph.D., associate professor of environmental and occupational health in the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health re-examined data from the earlier study and shows that passive - or secondary - exposure also causes just as much damage as active smoking, and it is the same kind of damage, according to science portal EurekAlert.
Grant's study reports that both active maternal smoking and secondary maternal exposure result in similarly increased rates of genetic mutation that are basically indistinguishable, it said.
"These kinds of mutations are likely to have lifelong repercussions for the exposed fetus, affecting survival, birth weight and susceptibility to disease, including cancer."
This is a startlingly different conclusion from that reached by three previous studies looking at the potential effects of tobacco smoke exposure to babies in the womb, one of which Grant co-authored.