As smoking prevalence has decreased in Canada, particularly during pregnancy and around children, and technological improvements have lowered detection limits, the use of traditional tobacco smoke biomarkers in infant populations requires re-evaluation.
We evaluated concentrations of urinary nicotine biomarkers, cotinine and
trans-3’-hydroxycotinine (3HC), and questionnaire responses. We used machine learning and prediction modeling to understand sources of tobacco smoke exposure for infants from the CHILD Cohort Study. Methods
Multivariable linear regression models, chosen through a combination of conceptual and data-driven strategies including random forest regression, assessed the ability of questionnaires to predict variation in urinary cotinine and 3HC concentrations of 2017 3-month-old infants.
Although only 2% of mothers reported smoking prior to and throughout their pregnancy, cotinine and 3HC were detected in 76 and 89% of the infants’ urine (
n= 2017). Questionnaire-based models explained 31 and 41% of the variance in cotinine and 3HC levels, respectively. Observed concentrations suggest 0.25 and 0.50 ng/mL as cut-points in cotinine and 3HC to characterize SHS exposure. This cut-point suggests that 23.5% of infants had moderate or regular smoke exposure. Significance
Though most people make efforts to reduce exposure to their infants, parents do not appear to consider the pervasiveness and persistence of secondhand and thirdhand smoke. More than half of the variation in urinary cotinine and 3HC in infants could not be predicted with modeling. The pervasiveness of thirdhand smoke, the potential for dermal and oral routes of nicotine exposure, along with changes in public perceptions of smoking exposure and risk warrant further exploration.