The study -- performed by the Motherisk lab at the Hospital For Sick Children in Toronto -- analyzed hair samples of adults and young children for meth exposure. The researchers, led by director of the Motherisk program Dr. Gideon Koren, found conclusive evidence that the toxic drug passes from pregnant women to their fetuses.
Koren says most of the health impacts of fetal exposure to meth -- which is often manufactured using over-the-counter cold medications -- is unknown, though some studies have shown it to hamper growth and intellectual development.
"We're just now seeing the black cloud coming. We have to see what comes out of it," Koren said.
The Motherisk lab -- aimed at uncovering evidence-based information on the effects of drugs, disease and chemicals on pregnant women and their children -- began detecting meth in newborn babies in 2003. The number of cases more than doubled -- to eight -- in 2004, and skyrocketed to 300 cases last year, Koren said.
Koren's study found that 396 mothers and children tested positive for meth, including 19 babies younger than three months old. Eleven mother-baby pairs tested positive, and roughly 85 percent of study participants tested positive for at least one other drug.
Unlike urine and blood testing, hair testing allows researchers to detect long-term drug use, since drugs stay trapped in hair for long periods of time. Babies develop hair during the last three months of pregnancy, so infants who test positive for meth through hair testing were exposed long after the mother knew she was pregnant, Koren said.
Natural health author Mike Adams says the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has failed to restrict or ban the sales of over-the-counter cold medicines used to make meth, which has contributed to the growing problem.
"The FDA will ban an herb based on the flimsiest of evidence, yet when it comes to patented drugs that are indirectly destroying the lives of our nation's youth, including infants, the FDA keeps the corporate profits rolling," Adams said. "If this nation is serious about stopping meth, isn't it time we banned the cold medicine used to make it?"