• How Does Tobacco Smoke Affect Infants? - Chromatography Investigates


How Does Tobacco Smoke Affect Infants? - Chromatography Investigates

Dec 04 2020

The nicotine in tobacco is a highly addictive substance. Tobacco use is a risk factor for many diseases including cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. Over twenty different types of cancer have been associated with tobacco use and over eight million people die every year from smoking related conditions. Most of those deaths occur in developing countries of low- to middle income. But smoking doesn’t only affect smokers.

Second- and third-hand smoke exposure has been shown to affect non-smokers. The World Health Organization estimates that annually 1.2 million deaths in non-smokers could be attributed to environmental tobacco smoke exposure. And this can affect children and infants too, with almost half of all children breathing tobacco smoke polluted air and 65000 children dying from illnesses related to second-hand smoke each year. A recent study by researchers in Indonesia has assessed the tobacco exposure for six-month old infants and published the results in a paper published in the journal Global Pediatric Health.

Smoking and income

A significant proportion of children in low- and middle-income countries are exposed to environmental tobacco smoke. Indonesia has one of the highest levels of smoking per capita in the world with an estimated 89 million smokers. The World Health Organization has recommended measures to reduce the consumption of tobacco in the country, but those measures will take time to filter through. In the meantime, children are exposed to environmental tobacco smoke.

There are many health outcomes in children that are associated with environmental tobacco smoke exposure. Asthma, adverse growth, respiratory tract infections and sudden infant death syndrome have all been linked to tobacco smoke exposure. It is therefore important to know the extent of exposure in the community so health officials can put the appropriate schemes in place and assess whether which measures are effective.

Nicotine in the hair

The simplest way to assess tobacco smoke exposure is using questionnaires. Unfortunately, many studies have shown that use of questionnaires to assess the impact of smoking show underreporting. The researchers behind the paper referenced above, used hair nicotine content to assess the environmental exposure to tobacco smoke of 102 infants.

The team sampled used hair samples taken at the scalp and only used the inner 1 cm of hair – approximately the last one month of growth. The nicotine was extracted from the samples using tert-butyl methyl ether and analysed using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. Recent advances in chromatography are discussed in the article, Hybrid Structures for Complex Analytical Instruments.

In the study, the team found that the measured biomarker nicotine in hair samples was significantly associated with some of the data collected from questionnaires. The team also found correlations between infant tobacco exposure and parent income and education. They conclude hair nicotine value of infants aged 6 months old is useful in confirming the questionnaire on smoking in household and exposure to ETS

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