Exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke -- even before conception -- appears to have a lingering impact that can later impair the brain development of a fetus according to Science daily.
Using rats in experiments carefully designed to mimic the second-hand smoke exposures that humans encounter, the researchers found that the chemical components of tobacco smoke affect fetal brain development throughout pregnancy.
The smoke exposure damages regions of the brain involved in learning, memory and emotional responses. Although the impact was most severe with exposures occurring in late gestation, adverse effects on the fetuses' neuro-development occurred even when the mothers were only exposed prior to conception.
"This finding has important implications for public health, because it reinforces the need to avoid secondhand smoke exposure not only during pregnancy, but also in the period prior to conception, or generally for women of childbearing age," said Theodore A. Slotkin, Ph.D.
Slotkin and colleague simulated secondhand smoke exposure by capturing and extracting the chemical compounds of tobacco smoke and administering the solution through implanted pumps in the laboratory animals.