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Prenatal smoking effects on kid's neurodevelopment worse than thought

Posted On: Aug. 24, 2011

Washington, August 23 (ANI): Babies born to mothers who smoke while pregnant face delays in early neurological development, and the effects may be stronger than had been previously thought, a new research has warned.

According to the study, smoking may cause as much as a 40 percentage point increase in the probability of being at risk of developmental problems in babies between 3 and 24 months old. The effects were strongest among children from poor families, the research found.

"This study underscores the dangers of prenatal smoking," said George Wehby, a professor at the University of Iowa's College of Public Health and the study's lead author. "We hope it also highlights the need for continued efforts to discourage expectant mothers from smoking."

Study subjects were recruited from health clinics in Argentina, Brazil, and Chile. In all, nearly 1,600 children were included, making this one of the largest studies of prenatal smoking and neurodevelopment.

Researchers surveyed mothers about their smoking habits. Neurological screenings, which included cognitive tests and assessments of communication, were administered to children.

Nearly 11 percent of mothers in the sample had smoked during pregnancy.

Despite increased awareness of the dangers of smoking, rates of prenatal smoking remain surprisingly high. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 12 percent of pregnant American women reported that they smoked while pregnant in 2005.

"Given the importance of early child health and neurodevelopment for future wellbeing, targeted interventions to reduce prenatal smoking may result in significant improvements in child development and long-run human capital," Wehby said.

The study has been published in the Journal of Human Capital. (ANI)

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