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Hum Exp Toxicol. 2012 Mar;31(3):258-65. doi: 10.1177/0960327111422401. Epub 2011 Oct 25.

Hair nicotine/cotinine concentrations as a method of monitoring exposure to tobacco smoke among infants and adults.

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  • 1Centre of Toxicology Sciences and Research, Division of Morphology, Medical School, University of Crete, Heraklion, Crete, Greece.


In this pilot study, we examined the validity and usefulness of hair nicotine-cotinine evaluation as a biomarker of monitoring exposure to tobacco. Head hair samples were collected from 22 infants (<2 years of age) and 44 adults with different exposures to tobacco (through either active or passive smoking) and analyzed by liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS) for nicotine and cotinine. Hair samples were divided into three groups, infants, passive smoker adults and active smoker adults, and into eight subgroups according to the degree of exposure. The limit of quantification (LOQ) was 0.1 ng/mg for nicotine and 0.05 ng/mg for cotinine. Mean recovery was 69.15% for nicotine and 72.08% for cotinine. The within- and between-day precision for cotinine and nicotine was calculated at different concentrations. Moreover, hair nicotine and cotinine concentrations were highly correlated among adult active smokers (R (2) = 0.710, p < 0.001), among adult nonsmokers exposed to secondhand smoke (SHS; R (2) = 0.729, p < 0.001) and among infants (R (2) = 0.538, p = 0.01). Among the infants exposed to SHS from both parents the noted correlations were even stronger (R (2) = 0.835, p = 0.02). The above results identify the use of hair samples as an effective method for assessing exposure to tobacco, with a high association between nicotine and cotinine especially among infants heavily exposed to SHS.

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