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It’s worse. Much worse. And, sometimes, love can hurt.

Second- and third-hand cigarette smoke is proving to be more dangerous than previously considered to low-income babies and toddlers, a recent federal study suggested.

Lead author Lisa M. Gatzke-Kopp, who serves as a Pennsylvania State University professor of human development and family studies, detailed an analysis that included 63 percent of more than 1,200 children had detectable levels of cotinine in their systems. An astounding rate, for sure.

“It was definitely more than we expected, and it’s scary,” said Lisa M. Gatzke-Kopp, the study’s lead author and a professor of human development and family studies at Pennsylvania State University. “Smoke continues on in the environment even after the cigarette is out.”

Cotinine is the result of the body’s natural process of breaking down nicotine in one’s system.

The researchers behind this secondhand smoke study also discovered more than 15 percent of the babies and toddlers tested positive for cotinine at similar levels found in adults, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.

The secondhand smoke study, which included representatives from several universities, was focused on young children and infants, identifying if they were highly susceptive to passive cigarette smoke because of natural higher respiration rates.

The second-hand smoke developed from being around a smoking adult and third-hand smoke was evident from crawling along floors and coming in contact with residue from clothes and toys. For example, by hugging a baby after smoking a cigarette can be harmful.

The secondhand smoke study, which was sponsored by the Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO), was published in the niche journal, Nicotine & Tobacco Research, in December. For children tested in Pennsylvania, those from lower income families tended to have higher rates, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

“I think some parents are trying to reduce their children’s exposure,” Gatzke-Kopp said. “They’re making a good effort. They go outside, or they don’t smoke around their child, but they may not know it’s all over them, and when they pick the baby up and cuddle the baby, the baby’s getting it through their clothes, their hair.”

It’s true, love can hurt. If you’re a smoker with children, consider making the switch to vaping. An e-cigarette could save you and your child’s life.

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