Press Releases

2000 Releases

Nicotine Levels in Children?s Hair Can Measure Exposure to Passive Smoking

For immediate release: September 25, 2000

Boston, MA--The amount of nicotine found in strands of hair can accurately measure children's exposure to household passive smoking, according to a Harvard researcher. This method may be used to more accurately assess exposure of children with asthma and other respiratory problems to second-hand smoke than relying solely on parental memory.

W.K. Al-Delaimy, research fellow in the Department of Nutrition, cut hair samples from 112 children and 76 mothers who lived in households where residents smoked. He correlated nicotine levels to answers given on questionnaires about smoking and household habits and found that levels of nicotine in children's hair increased approximately 6.5 percent with every cigarette smoked per day in the home. Mothers' smoking contributed more to nicotine levels than smoking by any other resident, perhaps because the mothers spent more time with their children.

The method used by Al-Delaimy overcomes many of the disadvantages usually associated with using only questionnaires to assess exposures to second-hand smoke, including difficulties in accounting for different sources and intensities of exposures. 

The research was published in a paper, "Questionnaire and Hair Measurement of Exposure to Tobacco Smoke," in the July-August issue of Journal of Exposure Analysis and Environmental Epidemiology. Al-Delaimy conducted the study as a researcher at the University of Otago in Wellington, New Zealand with two colleagues.

For further information, please contact:

Robin Herman
Office of Communications
Harvard School of Public Health
677 Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA 02115
Phone: 617-432-4752
Email: rherman@hsph.harvard.edu