Kids’ Hands May Be Covered in Nicotine: Study

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It’s no surprise that the stench and toxins of cigarettes cling to everything the smoke meets. But what’s more shocking is that high levels of nicotine are getting on kids’ hands.

While digging through mom’s purse for a stick of Juicy Fruit, tots are also getting their hands on the tobacco, nicotine and other filth absorbed by wherever that purse has been.

Credit: Lan Rasso/Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

“This is the first study to show that children’s hands hold high levels of nicotine even when parents are not smoking around them,” said Dr. Melinda Mahabee-Gittens, co-investigator on a study printed this month in BMJ Tobacco Control and a physician in the emergency department at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.

“Parents may think that not smoking around their child is enough, but this is not the case,” Mahabee-Gittens added. “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 sample looked at 25 children. The findings will be further compared to a larger sample of more than 700 children, according to researchers from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and San Diego State University.

The researchers declared in their summary that “the presence of nicotine on the hands of children was associated with equally significant levels of the harmful tobacco metabolite cotinine in saliva.”

Related: Thirdhand Smoke May Be More Toxic Than Secondhand Smoke

The findings are especially problematic since children touch absolutely everything they can get their hands on.

The average age of children involved in the study, with their parents’ permission, was 5. They were tested between April and September, 2016 during emergency room visits for symptoms that could be related to secondhand smoke, such as rhinorrhea and difficulty breathing. Tests showed the children were at risk of varying levels of secondhand smoke.

Credit: Nina A.J./Flickr, CC BY-ND 2.0

“Previous studies have shown that persistent residue from secondhand smoke accumulates in dust, on home surfaces, on the clothes worn by smokers and on different household objects like toys, etc.,” according to a Cincinnati Children’s Hospital news release.

“The higher-than-expected nicotine levels and significant association with cotinine indicate that third hand smoke may play a role in the overall exposure of young children to tobacco smoke toxicants and that hand wipe could be a useful marker of overall tobacco smoke pollution and a proxy for exposure,” researchers concluded in the paper’s abstract.

“Researchers would like to include in their follow-up research an examination of how much secondhand smoke and thirdhand smoke each contribute to overall tobacco exposure in children, and more specifics on how these exposures affect child health,” according to the hospital news release. “They also want to look at preventive measures for better protecting children from overall tobacco exposure.”

Related: Too Many Children Are Getting Their Hands on Pet Medications

A professional journalist nearly 30 years, David Heitz started his career at the Quad-City Times in Davenport, Iowa before moving to Los Angeles. He led the Glendale News-Press to best small daily newspaper in the state (CNPA) as managing editor and also worked as executive news editor of the Press-Telegram. He worked briefly as deputy news editor of the Detroit News before returning to the Quad-Cities, where he has worked as a freelance medical writer since 2012 for several national websites. He recently purchased his childhood home and says he truly is “living the dream.”