Posted by Neharika Sabharwal on March 31, 2011

Besides the apparent harm caused by actual smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke, the dangers of cigarette smoking may be even more far reaching.

The so-called third-hand smoke also poses a potential threat especially to babies and toddlers, finds an alarming new study.

According to Spanish researchers, infants who sleep in the same room as their smoker parents exhibit nicotine levels three times higher than those who sleep separately.

Experts theorize, the invisible yet toxic residue from nicotine in cigarettes that clings to smokers’ hair, skin, and clothing can be potentially damaging to the health of children.

Study details
In order to assess the dangers posed by nicotine smoke to infants in a home environment, the researchers carried out a study known as the Brief Intervention in Babies Effectiveness (BIBE).

For the purpose of the study, the investigators questioned parents of 1,123 babies aged less than 18 months. All the infants had at least one parent who actively smoked.

In order to examine the nicotine levels, the researchers analysed hair samples from 252 babies. They carried out the hair analysis again at three and six month interval.

The results of the hair analysis coincided with the answers obtained from the parents. Seventy-three percent of the parents had admitted to either smoking or allowed smoking in their homes.

The study detected high levels of nicotine, or 'third-hand smoke' in 83 percent of the babies' hair samples.

Harmful particles from nicotine smoke linger
It is a common misconception that ventilating bedrooms after smoking, lighting up near the window or when the child is away from home or in another area of the house can protect the kids from being exposed to high levels of toxic compounds.

However, the study found that dissipating smoke is ineffective and the harmful agents from nicotine smoke linger in the house even hours after smoking.

Guadalupe Ortega, lead author of the research study and coordinator of the Atenció Primària Sense Fum programme at the Department of Health of the Catalonia regional government stated, "The only way of keeping the place smoke-free is to smoke outside the house.”

Other highlights of the study
Given that mothers spend more time with their babies, the researchers found that smoker moms tend to expose their kids to higher levels of tobacco smoke.

Experts also found smoker moms nurse their infants for a short duration than those who do not light up.

The study is published in the journal 'BMC Public Health.'

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