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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Environmental Health Note/Prenatal Smoke

Air Date: Week of

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Living on Earth’s Cynthia Graber reports that pregnant women who smoke may be hurting their babies as much as if they used crack cocaine or heroin.


CURWOOD: Coming up: global warming ignites concern among shareholders of major corporations.

First, this Environmental Health Note from Cynthia Graber.


GRABER: A new study shows that mothers who smoke during pregnancy may be hurting their newborn babies much in the same manner as mothers who use crack cocaine or heroin.

The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, tested almost 60 babies born to moms in similar socioeconomic groups. Women did not drink or use illegal drugs during pregnancy, and the babies had no medical problems. But half the mothers were smokers, and researchers found that the babies born to the smoking mothers exhibited signs of being more excitable and more tense, required more handling and care, and showed greater stress than those born to the nonsmoking mothers. The more cigarettes the women smoked per day, the stronger these symptoms in their babies.

According to researchers, these symptoms mean the babies are experiencing nicotine withdrawal, similar to babies born to drug addicts. Researchers point out that 18 percent of all pregnant women in the United States smoke, while only three to five percent use cocaine. And scientists say cocaine use by pregnant women remains a significant concern, while smoking is largely tolerated by society.

Researchers say the next step is to determine whether nicotine causes lasting neurological harm to developing infants.

That’s this week’s Health Note. I’m Cynthia Graber.

CURWOOD: And you're listening to Living on Earth.

[MUSIC: Jimmy Smith “Theme from Joy House”The Cat - Verve (1964)]



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