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Researchers find nicotine on hands of kids whose parents smoke

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Cincinnati – The dangers of secondhand smoke are well-established – but what about "thirdhand smoke?"

That is the term researchers from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and San Diego State University are using to describe the tobacco smoke residue found on items and surfaces – and to which children of smokers are exposed.

These children then may carry nicotine on their hands from touching the contaminated surfaces regardless of whether their parents smoke in front of them.

Researchers tested 25 children during an emergency room visit related to secondhand smoke exposure. They used a special wipe to extract the nicotine from the childrens’ hands, and also took saliva samples to check for cotinine – a nicotine metabolite. All 25 children were found to have nicotine on their hands, and 24 of the children had cotinine in their saliva, the researchers said, noting how common it is for children to put their hands and toys in their mouths.

Exposure to nicotine and cotinine has been shown to cause respiratory and ear infections, asthma attacks, and other ailments among children.

“Parents may think that not smoking around their child is enough, but this is not the case,” Melinda Mahabee-Gittens, a physician in the Division of Emergency Medicine at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, said in a press release. “These findings emphasize that the only safe way to protect children from smoke exposure is to quit smoking and ban smoking in the home.”

The study was published online March 30 in the journal Tobacco Control.

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