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This article is part of the Tobacco portal on Sourcewatch funded from 2006 - 2009 by the American Legacy Foundation.

Cotinine is a metabolite (breakdown product) of nicotine in the body. It results from exposure to nicotine. The word "cotinine" is an anagram of "nicotine." The level of cotinine in the blood is directly proportionate to the amount of exposure to tobacco smoke, making cotinine a valuable indicator of a person's amount of tobacco smoke exposure, including exposure to secondhand smoke.[1]

Cotinine has been found in the urine of babies of people who smoke. One study found that babies of parents who smoked had cotinine levels more than five times higher than babies of nonsmoking parents. Maternal smoking had the biggest effect, quadrupling the babies' cotinine levels. Paternal smoking nearly doubled the babies' cotinine levels.[2]

As a Pollutant

Because humans and animals often do not fully metabolize pharmaceuticals in their body, they can excrete drugs or their breakdown products, which may the enter the environment.[3]

In Sewage Sludge

Cotinine has been found in sewage sludge. In the Targeted National Sewage Sludge Survey, a 2009 test of 84 samples of sewage sludge from around the U.S., the EPA found cotinine in 39 samples (46%) in concentrations ranging from 11.4 to 690 parts per billion.[4] There are no federal regulations governing how much of this drug may be present in sewage sludge applied to land as fertilizer.

In Drinking Water

An Associated Press investigation found that, of 62 metropolitan areas in the U.S., only 28 tested for pharmaceuticals, and 24 found pharmaceuticals in the drinking water when they tested it.[5] The following cities tested positive for cotinine:[6] Atlanta, Milwaukee, Northern New Jersey, and Philadelphia.

Resources and Articles

Related Sourcewatch Articles


  1. MedicineNet - Medical Dictionary July 1, 2004
  2. Miranda Hitti, WebMD Health News Smokers' Babies Take on Cotinine June 19, 2007
  3. O.A.H. Jones, N. Voulvoulis, and J.N. Lester, Human Pharmaceuticals in Wastewater Treatment Processes, Environmental Science and Technology, 2005.
  4. Targeted National Sewage Sludge Survey Report, US EPA website, Accessed August 28, 2010.
  5. AN AP INVESTIGATION : Pharmaceuticals Found in Drinking Water, Associated Press, Accessed September 3, 2010.
  6. Pharmawater-Metros-By-Results, Associated Press, Accessed September 3, 2010.

External Resources


External Articles