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Hum Exp Toxicol. 1999 Apr;18(4):257-64.

Maternal passive smoking during pregnancy and foetal developmental toxicity. Part 2: histological changes.

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  • 1Toxicology Laboratory, Institute of Hygiene & Occupational Medicine, University Medical Center, Essen, Germany.


1. Evidence has been accumulating on the growth suppressing effects of maternal passive smoking on foetus. Reviewing all literature released during the last two decades and screening for all possible variables such as previous smoking history, maternal age and weight gain, parity and length of gestation, placental weight, and diet, we found no reason to doubt the role of passive smoking during pregnancy in the induction of growth retardation. However, no literature indicates whether these birthweight deficits might hint at other possible hidden abnormalities in tissues. To verify this question, we performed an experiment on rats. 2. We have already reported that pups born to rats with previous exposure to cigarette's sidestream smoke during pregnancy showed a significant and dose-dependent growth retardation. Those pregnant rats were exposed each in a 150 dm3 glass chamber to diluted sidestream smoke of either 1, 2, 3 or 4 commercial blond filter brand cigarettes during either first, second or third week of pregnancy. We have selected a part of each group of pups at random and examined for possible histological changes of lung, liver, stomach, kidney and intestinal tissues. 3. Compared to controls, lung tissues of newborns of smoke exposed mothers showed an enhanced incidence of apoptosis, mesenchymal changes, and hyperplasia of bronchial muscles. Pronounced abnormal changes in haematopoiesis and proliferation of bile duct cells were the most variations from norm observed in liver tissues of exposed pups. Immature glomeruli of kidney, epithelhypoplasia of stomach, and hypoplasia of intestinal villi were common among newborns of exposed mothers than among controls. 4. These results indicate that passive smoking upon pregnancy causes abnormal morphological changes in internal tissues of newborns. At present, we can draw no conclusion as to whether these histological changes will result in functional malformations or possibly late effects, although they should be expected.

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