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Am J Public Health. 1989 Oct;79(10):1381-4.

Elevated blood levels of carcinogens in passive smokers.

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Department of Epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA.


The hypothesis that involuntary exposure to tobacco smoke--passive smoking--results in greater risk of cancer was assessed by measuring the levels of two known carcinogens in the blood of 57 nonsmokers with varying degrees of involuntary exposure, including six heavily exposed bartenders. The concentrations of hemoglobin adducts of 4-aminobiphenyl, a bladder carcinogen, were significantly higher in subjects with confirmed involuntary exposure (plasma cotinine concentrations between 2 and 23 ng/ml) compared with subjects with undetectable levels of cotinine. Similarly, adducts of 3-aminobiphenyl were significantly elevated in subjects with confirmed exposure. The odds of 3-aminobiphenyl adduct levels exceeding 2 pg/g of hemoglobin were 6:7 among the confirmed exposed, compared with the odds of 2:42 among subjects with undetectable cotinine (odds ratio = 18; 95 percent confidence interval = 3.3, 94). The validity of the assay was demonstrated by showing striking declines in adduct levels among quitting smokers.

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