Biological markers of intrauterine exposure to cocaine and cigarette smoking

Dev Pharmacol Ther. 1992;18(3-4):228-36.


We describe hair tests for assessment of fetal exposure to cocaine and cigarette smoking. Cocaine and its major metabolites are incorporated into hair during the growth of the shaft and stay there for the whole life of the hair. Cocaine crosses the placenta and its metabolite benzoylecgonine, has been found in neonatal urine, meconium and hair. In order to utilize hair measurements of cocaine as a biological marker of systemic exposure, we conducted both animal and human investigations on the dose response characteristics of this phenomenon. Our data suggest that both maternal and fetal accumulation of cocaine and its metabolite follow a linear pattern within the regularly used doses. Similarly, a good correlation was observed in animals between maternal dose and fetal hair accumulation. To date, no biological markers have been identified that can predict the extent of fetal exposure to the adverse effects of toxic constituents of cigarette smoke. We measured maternal and fetal hair concentrations of nicotine and cotinine in mother-infant pairs. Smoking mothers had a mean of 21.3 +/- 18 ng/mg hair nicotine and 6 +/- 9.2 ng/mg of cotinine, significantly more than nonsmokers (0.9 +/- 0.8 ng/mg nicotine and 0.3 +/- 0.5 ng/mg cotinine, p < 0.0001). Babies of smokers had a mean nicotine concentration of 6 +/- 9.2 ng/mg (range 0-27.3) and cotinine of 2.1 +/- 3.7 ng/mg (range 0-12.2), significantly more than babies of nonsmokers (nicotine 0.6 +/- 0.7 ng/mg and cotinine 0.2 +/- 0.5 ng/mg; p < 0.01).(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers
  • Cocaine / analysis
  • Cocaine / pharmacokinetics*
  • Female
  • Hair / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Maternal-Fetal Exchange*
  • Nicotine / analysis
  • Nicotine / pharmacokinetics
  • Pregnancy
  • Smoking / metabolism*


  • Biomarkers
  • Nicotine
  • Cocaine