Professor Judith Zelikoff, of New York University, conducted research into the effects of e-cigarettes on pregnant women and their babies and presented her findings at the world’s leading science conference.
E-cigarettes, which vaporise nicotine to allow smokers to get a hit of the drug without being exposed to other cancerous chemicals found in regular cigarettes, have grown in popularity in recent years, with an estimated 2.6million people in Great Britain now using them.
Many women have switched from smoking normal nicotine sticks to using e-cigarettes under the belief that they are safer for their baby. However, Professor Zelikoff insists this is most definitely not the case.
In fact, she found the vapour of these e-cigarettes could actually be even more dangerous to an unborn baby, and exposure to the fumes can lead to problems with learning, memory, behaviour and coordination in the future.
Professor Zelikoff used baby mice for her research, comparing those exposed to e-cigarette fumes in the womb and just after birth to those whose mothers were not exposed to the same vapour.
After being exposed to the fumes, with both normal and nicotine free varieties of e-cigarettes used in the study, the rodents’ brains showed a distinct difference in their genetic makeup.
In total, around 2,630 genes were affected in the developing frontal cortex – the part of the brain responsible for higher mental functions.
“We have to make people more aware of the risks. The major point is that these e-cigarettes need more safety testing,” Professor Zelikoff said. “The perception is that e-cigarettes are completely safe for pregnant women and vulnerable groups like infants, but we can’t say that.