Newborn’s Meconium Reveals If They Were Exposed to Second Hand Smoke in Utero

Researchers from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, have recently discovered that the smoking habits of the baby’s mother can be determined by inspecting the baby’s Meconium.

Meconium is the first stool a baby produces right after being born. The stool is dark with the consistency of tar (sticky and heavy) and is usually passed by the baby within the first few minutes after birth. Meconium’s tarry consistency is a result of all the materials the infant ingested while in the womb.

The researchers took samples of meconium from three hundred and thirty seven infants. They measured the levels of tobacco smoke metabolites within the infants samples and found high levels of tobacco smoke metabolites in the meconium of infant’s whose mother were reported to have smoke during their pregnancy. Mothers who were around secondhand smoke during their pregnancy also showed trace amounts of tobacco smoke metabolites within their baby’s sample and infant’s whose mother had no exposure to tobacco or secondhand smoke revealed no metabolites. The meconium samples of infants whose mothers smoked during pregnancy could also be used to reveal the duration and intensity of tobacco smoke the infants were exposed to while in the womb.

Joe Braun a member of the research team stated that, “prenatal active and secondhand tobacco smoke exposure is a prevalent environmental exposure that is associated with adverse infant and childhood health outcomes. Biomarkers of exposure, like serum and meconium tobacco smoke metabolites, are useful to enhance the measurement of tobacco smoke exposure, which is often under reported”.

The researchers hope to use this technique to also study levels of other environmental toxins infants can be exposed to while in the womb.

“Although meconium was not superior to serum as a biomarker of tobacco smoke exposure, it may be useful to estimate gestational exposure to other environmental toxicants that exhibit more variability during pregnancy, especially non-persistent compounds like Bisphenol A and Phthalates”.

– Jeff, Staff Writer

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