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Carcinogens Found in Urine of Infants Exposed to Smokers

Levels higher than have been found in most field studies of tobacco smoke exposure

MONDAY, May 15 (HealthDay News) -- Almost half of infants under a year old who are exposed to cigarette smoke in the home or car have detectable levels of a marker of tobacco smoke in their urine, according to a study in the May issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

Stephen S. Hecht, Ph.D., and colleagues from the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, measured the levels of NNAL, a biomarker of the uptake of the tobacco-specific carcinogen 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanone, in the urine of 144 infants (ages 3 months to 12 months) who were exposed to tobacco smoke in the home or car.

The researchers found that 46.5 percent of infants had detectable levels of NNAL in their urine. Household members and visitors smoked a mean of about 76 cigarettes per week in cases where NNAL was detectable, but a mean of only about 27 cigarettes per week in cases where NNAL was undetectable. The authors note that the mean NNAL level of 0.083 pmol/mL is higher than has been found in most field studies of exposure to environmental tobacco smoke.

"The results of this study…support the concept that persistent environmental tobacco smoke exposure in childhood could be related to cancer later in life," Hecht and colleagues conclude.

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