To date, the screening of meconium for the determination of tobacco exposure in newborns has proven difficult. It was hypothesized that cotinine forms reversible Schiff base bonds with free amino functions on proteins, therefore, hydrolysis of meconium would be necessary for the detection of 'free' cotinine. One-hundred-and-two (102) meconium samples received into our laboratory were extracted using a routine non-hydrolysis screening procedure for drugs of abuse. Separate aliquots of the specimens were hydrolyzed and re-extracted according to the same procedure. The results of the two methods were compared using a highly specific cotinine micro-plate enzyme immunoassay procedure (EIA). Of the non-hydrolyzed samples, 33% were positive for cotinine, while 79% of the hydrolyzed samples were cotinine-positive. Common drugs of abuse did not interfere with the analysis. Micro-plate EIA provides a rapid, simple and reliable screening method for the determination of cotinine in meconium following hydrolysis and extraction. In general, the meconium specimens received into our laboratory are from newborns considered to be at risk for post-natal problems due to suspected drug and/or alcohol abuse during pregnancy.