Parents, take note! If you are a regular smoker, your kids may be carrying significant levels of nicotine on their hands just by coming in contact with items or surfaces contaminated with tobacco residues, a new study has warned.
Researchers, including those from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Centre in the US, initially studied about 25 children, followed by a larger analysis of exposure data collected from more than 700 additional children.
Children were tested during emergency room visits for illnesses possibly related to secondhand smoke exposure such as difficulty in breathing.
The average child age was five and all of the children were at risk of varying degrees of second-hand smoke exposure, as all of their parents were smokers.
Researchers used specially designed hand wipes to extract nicotine from the hands of participating children and took saliva samples to look for corresponding levels of cotinine.
All of the children had detectable nicotine levels on their hands and all but one had detectable cotinine in saliva.
They found that the presence of significant nicotine on the hands of children was linked to equally significant levels of the harmful tobacco metabolite cotinine in their saliva.
Exposure to these contaminants causes numerous health problems in infants and children such as respiratory and ear infections, more frequent and severe asthma attacks, and other ailments.
House dust and surfaces are important sources of exposure for pesticides and other toxic substances in young children, researchers said.
“Parents may think that not smoking around their child is enough, but this is not the case,” said Melinda Mahabee-Gittens, a physician in Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Centre.
“These findings emphasise that the only safe way to protect children from smoke exposure is to quit smoking and ban smoking in the home,” she said. The study was published in the journal Tobacco Control.