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Exposure To Secondhand Smoke Endangers Fetal Brain Development Even Before Pregnancy

Update Date: Jan 07, 2017 10:08 AM EST
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It is well known that exposure to secondhand smoke is dangerous to everyone most especially pregnant women. However, a recent study shows that the dangerous effects of secondhand smoke pose dangers to fetal brain development even before pregnancy. The study raises concern that all women of childbearing age are at risk.

The research conducted under Theodore A. Slotkin, Ph.D. from Duke University Medical Center, reaffirms the dangerous effects of secondhand smoke throughout pregnancy. What surprised Professor Slotkin and his colleagues was the study's findings that exposure to secondhand smoke prior to being pregnant also risks the brain development of the fetus. This raises concern about the dangerous risks of exposure to secondhand smoke would have not only to pregnant women but also to all women of childbearing age.

The study also found out that exposure to secondhand smoke damages the regions of the brain responsible for memory, learning, and emotional responses. The chemical components on tobacco smoke severely affects the fetal development of the brain during late gestation stages or during the late stage of pregnancy.

The researchers used female rats exposed to secondhand smoke to conduct the study. The female rats were administered with a solution extracted from the chemical components of tobacco smoke. The female rats were then administered the solution in three periods - before mating, during early pregnancy stage, late pregnancy stage. The offspring of the female rats were then monitored and studied during early childhood until adulthood.

The researchers found out that the offspring of the female rats exposed to secondhand smoke during three periods showed signs of damage on the regions of the brain responsible for learning and memory. Brain functions for mood and behavior were also affected.

Further study is needed to understand on how exposure to secondhand smoke prior to pregnancy risks the fetal brain development. On the other hand, the researchers suspect that the chemical components of tobacco smoke linger on the body and is still potent enough to endanger the eggs responsible for reproduction thus impairing brain functions of the offspring.

"We warn women about smoking during pregnancy, and most people are aware that secondhand smoke exposure is also harmful to the fetus, but our study is the first to show that exposure prior to conception is potentially damaging, as well. The public health implications should be obvious", according to Professor Slotkin. The study was recently published in the scientific journal Toxicological Sciences.

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