Second-Hand Smoke Just as Harmful to Fetuses as First-Hand Smoke

Posted on June 29th, 2010
Posted in Pregnancy

While it’s well known that secondhand smoke can be dangerous for children, a new study confirms that it’s also dangerous for newborns of mothers who are exposed to secondhand smoke during pregnancy.

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health found that abnormalities in these newborns were identical to those found in newborns of mothers who actively smoked during pregnancy. These genetic mutations may affect survival, birth weight, and susceptibility rto diseases such as cancer. The study was published online in the Open Pediatric Medicine Journal.

Study author Stephen G. Grant, Ph.D., associate professor of environmental and occupational health at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, led a previous study in which abnormalities were discovered in the HPRT gene located on the X chromosome in cord blood from newborns who were prenatally exposed to second-hand smoke.

In the new study, Dr. Grant found the same mutation in another gene called glycophorin A (GPA), which represents oncogenes, or genes that transform normal cells into cancer cells, causing tumors. He found that this mutation was the same as that found in newborns of mothers who actively smoked during pregnancy and non-smokers who were exposed to cigarette smoke. The mutations were also the same in newborns of mothers who stopped smoking during pregnancy but were still exposed to second-hand smoke.

Dr. Grant said these new findings underscore their previous discovery that second-hand smoke can cause permanent damage in newborns. They were able to find a distinct yet equally important type of genetic mutation that is likely to remain throughout the individual’s lifetime.

Dr. Grant stressed that pregnant women should not only stop smoking, but also reduce their exposure to second-hand smoke.

Source: University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, Exposure to Secondhand Smoke in the Womb Has Lifelong Impact, July 1, 2010
 

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