Increased DNA damage in children caused by passive smoking as assessed by comet assay and oxidative stress

Mutat Res. 2007 May 18;629(2):140-7. doi: 10.1016/j.mrgentox.2007.02.001. Epub 2007 Feb 20.


The present study aimed to evaluate the association between the environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) and DNA damage in relation to oxidative stress (OS) in children. Sixty-four children of age 1-8 years, selected from the outpatient clinic of Mansoura University Children Hospital were divided into two groups (23 children/group) based on high (>20 cigarettes/day) or low (<20 cigarettes/day) exposure to ETS at home. Twenty symptom-free children with normal cotinine level and with no exposure to ETS were recruited as controls. The comet assay was used to quantify the level of DNA damage in lymphocytes isolated from all children. Spectrophotometric methods were used to assess the serum level of malondialdehyde (MDA) and activity of glutathione peroxidase (GSH-Px) in erythrocytes. Also, serum level of tocopherol fractions (alpha, gamma, delta) was assessed by high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). Children exposed to ETS exhibited retarded growth, more chest problems, and gastroenteritis than the control. A significant increase in mean comet tail length indicating DNA damage was observed in ETS-exposed children (P<0.001) compared to controls. ETS-exposed children had significantly (P<0.001) higher MDA level paralleled with significant (P<0.001) decrease in the level of GSH-Px and tocopherol fractions compared with controls. The GSH-Px activity and tocopherol levels were inversely correlated with the increase of ETS exposure. These results show that inhalation of ETS is associated with an increase in the level of oxidants and a simultaneous decrease in the level of antioxidants in the children's blood. This status of oxidant-antioxidant imbalance (OS) may be one of the mechanisms leading to DNA damage detected in lymphocytes of ETS-exposed children. In conclusion, the present study gives an indication of an association between DNA damage and ETS exposure in children.

MeSH terms

  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Comet Assay
  • Cotinine / urine
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • DNA Damage*
  • Egypt
  • Female
  • Glutathione Peroxidase / blood
  • Humans
  • Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • Male
  • Malondialdehyde / blood
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution / adverse effects*
  • Tocopherols / blood


  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution
  • Malondialdehyde
  • Glutathione Peroxidase
  • Cotinine
  • Tocopherols