Concern over babies sleeping with smoker parents

  • Deborah Condon

Babies who sleep in the same room as parents who smoke exhibit nicotine levels that are three times higher than babies who sleep in a separate room, the results of a new study indicate.

According to Spanish researchers, passive smoking is the leading preventable cause of childhood death in developed countries. They believe that their findings show that babies who sleep with smoker parents suffer from ‘third hand smoke', in other words, the harmful smoke particles that impregnate their parents' skin, clothes and hair.

The researchers interviewed the parents of 1,123 babies under 18 months of age. All of the babies had at least one parent who smoked. Hair samples from 252 babies were also analysed in order to determine their nicotine levels, while follow-up visits were carried out three and six months later.

The parents' statements largely coincided with the results obtained from the hair analysis - 73% of the adults said they smoked or allowed smoking in their homes, while 83% of the hair analysed showed up high nicotine levels.

The hair nicotine analyses also showed that smoke toxins are not eliminated even if parents regularly carry out actions to protect their children's health. This included ventilating bedrooms after smoking, smoking at the window, or smoking when the baby is not in the house or in a different room.

"The only way of keeping the place smoke-free is to smoke outside the house," the researchers stressed.

The study also found that a parent's influence varied according to their gender. As mothers generally spend more time with babies, they were most likely to expose their children to the greatest levels of tobacco smoke.

Smoking mothers were also found to breastfeed for less time than non-smoking mothers.

Meanwhile, the study also found that children were most heavily exposed to smoke in private places, such as at home and in cars.

Details of these findings are published in the journal, BMC Public Health.

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