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Am J Public Health. 2013 Oct;103 Suppl 1:S133-5. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2012.301208. Epub 2013 Aug 8.

Early hits and long-term consequences: tracking the lasting impact of prenatal smoke exposure on telomere length in children.

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  • 1Katherine P. Theall, Sarah McKasson, Emily Mabile, and Lauren F. Dunaway are with the Tulane Mary Amelia Women's Center, New Orleans, LA. Katherine P. Theall and Lauren F. Dunaway are also with the Department of Global Community Health and Behavioral Sciences, Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. Stacy S. Drury is with the Department of Psychiatry and Department of Pediatrics, Tulane University School of Medicine.


We examined the association between telomere length and prenatal tobacco exposure (PTE) in 104 children aged 4 to 14 years. Salivary telomere length (STL) was determined from salivary DNA using quantitative polymerase chain reaction. Of the children, 18% had maternal reported PTE. Mean STL was significantly lower among children with PTE (6.4 vs 7.5, P < .05). Findings extend the literature demonstrating the negative long-term effects of PTE to include a cellular marker of aging linked to multiple negative health outcomes.

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