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Cotinine Levels In 7-Year-Olds Are 4 Times Higher If Their Mother Smoked: Study

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An hour a day in a room with a smoker is nearly a hundred times more likely to cause lung cancer in a non-smoker than 20 years spent in a building containing asbestos, said British epidemiologist Sir Richard Doll in 1985. This in a nutshell sums up the dangers of passive smoking, also known as secondhand smoking. Mind you, children are at greater health risk than adults when exposed to secondhand smoke, and that fact is already known.

Now researchers at the University of Bristol, led by Alex Stiby, have found measurable evidence on the health hazards of passive smoking in children whose parents smoke.

An analysis of cotinine levels among children aged 7 and 15 in a long-term health research project, dubbed the Children of the 90s study, has revealed that the cotinine levels of non-smoking 15-year-olds were five times higher and that of the seven-year-olds were four times higher if their mother smoked ten or more cigarettes a day, compared with the children of non-smoking mothers.

Cotinine, which is a metabolite of nicotine, is associated with adverse health effects such as respiratory illness or lung cancer.

Commenting on the findings, Professor Marcus Munafò, the senior academic on the paper from the University of Bristol's School of Experimental Psychology, said, "At the age of seven it is highly unlikely that children have started smoking, so the presence of cotinine in their blood at this age provides clear and conclusive evidence of the risks to young children from adults smoking at home."

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