Evaluation of urinary trans-3'-hydroxycotinine as a biomarker of children's environmental tobacco smoke exposure

Biomarkers. 2006 Nov-Dec;11(6):507-23. doi: 10.1080/13547500600902458.


The utility of urinary trans-3'-hydroxy cotinine (3HC) as a biomarker of environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) exposure was investigated in comparison with urinary cotinine (COT), the sum (3HC + COT), and ratio of the two nicotine metabolites (3HC/COT). Participants were 150 ETS exposed children (aged 1-44 months) and their parents. Child urine samples were collected during 3weekly baseline assessments and at interviews administered 3, 6, 12, and 18 months after baseline. Findings indicate that 3HC and COT can be measured reliably (rho = 0.96, 0.88) and show equivalent levels of repeated measures stability (rho = 0.71, 0.75). COT, 3HC, and 3HC + COT showed equally strong associations with air nicotine levels, reported ETS contamination, and reported ETS exposure (r=0.60-0.70). The intraclass correlations of 3HC/COT were lower than those for COT or 3HC. Older children had a higher 3HC/COT ratio than younger children (3.5 versus 2.2), and non-Hispanic White children had a higher ratio than African-American children (3.2 versus 1.9). These findings suggest that COT, 3HC, and 3HC + COT are approximately equivalent and equally strong biomarkers of ETS exposure in children. Moreover, 3HC/COT may provide a useful indicator to investigate age- and race-related differences in the metabolism of COT and 3HC.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Air Pollutants
  • Biomarkers / urine
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cotinine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Cotinine / urine*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Inhalation Exposure / analysis*
  • Nicotine / analysis
  • Nicotine / metabolism
  • Racial Groups
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution / analysis*


  • Air Pollutants
  • Biomarkers
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution
  • hydroxycotinine
  • Nicotine
  • Cotinine