Breastfeeding mothers are at risk of being exposed to third-hand smoking which poses a number of health complications to the infants including mental retardation, bone malformations, diabetes and cancers.
Third-hand smoking normally occurs when one is exposed to an environment which someone has smoked from, long after they have left or remnants of the cigarette have been removed.
According to Dr. Julius Muron, a Psychiatrist at Butabika Mental Hospital says about 10% of women are exposed to third hand and second hand smoking, which occurs through the inhalation of cigarette smoke, either at workplaces, homes or in public places.
Dr. Muron says that even after the smoker has left, chemicals still remain in the environment causing health risks to people.
He explained that new evidence suggests that 2nd and 3rd hand exposure to tobacco is more dangerous and is responsible for emitting high carbon monoxide, Ammonia and other chemicals that are responsible for causing cancers, and high risk anaemia in pregnant mothers.
Dr. Muron noted that smoking collects oxygen in the respiratory system and deprives it of the ability to clean the air breathed in. He explains that according to medical evidence, after three puffs on a cigarette the heart rate of a smoker goes up from 70 beats per minute to 80 beats per minute.
Cigarette smoking in breastfeeding mothers is responsible for weak bones, and malformations in infants. In addition, children born to smokers get exposed to nicotine and are more likely to have severe abdominal crumbs or are at high risk of being diabetic.
Babies can also be exposed to poisonous chemicals through the mother’s milk, if the mother is a smoker. While agreeing on the health concerns in breastfeeding mothers, Richard Baguma, the Coordinator at Uganda Health Alliance and the Civil Society Coalition on Scaling up Nutrition – (UCCO-SUN), says at the early stage of breastfeeding a child’s health is of importance.
Uganda has joined other countries in observing the World Breast feeding week from 1st to 7th August aimed at emphasising the importance of breastfeeding in the first 6 months of an infant’s life.
In June, new research from Laurence Berkeley National Laboratory at the University of California claimed for the first time that third-hand smoke from cigarettes causes significant genetic damage to human cells.
The study says the ‘noxious residue’ produced by cigarette smoke clings to virtually all surfaces after second-hand smoke has disappeared.The study also found that this toxic residue becomes more harmful over time.