I guess all that tarry goop is good for something….

July 20, 2006

ScienceDaily: Baby’s First Stool May Provide Clues To Fetal Alcohol Exposure
Fetal alcohol exposure is usually determined through self-reported maternal consumption. Self-reported drinking, however, is often an unreliable measure. Researchers have found that the presence of certain fatty acid ethyl esters (FAEEs) in meconium may provide a dependable biomarker of fetal alcohol exposure.

The test involves taking small samples of meconium and doing a gas chromatography/mass spectrometry analysis.  This techniques separates different chemicals based on their mass.  The data from the analysis can be interpreted to show how much of a given chemical is present.  In this case the FAEE ethyl linoleate (formed when ethanol – alcohol – reacts with the fat linoleaic acid) concentration in the meconium is an accurate indicator of how much alcohol a mother has consumed during pregancy.

Although it is not discussed in the article, I imagine that this technique could be used to determine whether or not there is a “safe” level of alcohol consumption for pregnant women.

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