Two recent medical journal reports link sudden infant death syndrome to maternal smoking during pregnancy and botulism in infected formulas.
A National Institute of Child Health and Human Development funded American study examining l93 cases of SIDS concluded that infants born to mothers who smoked l0 or more cigarettes a day and had low iron levels during pregnancy quadrupled the risk of cot death, compared to infants of mothers who did not smoke and were not anaemic.
The more a woman smoked, the more important her iron level was as a risk factor for SIDS, the report said.
The higher risk of SIDS appears to be due to a combination of smoking and low iron levels leading to chronic foetal hypoxia (lack of oxygen) in the womb. This condition may predispose babies to SIDS by impairing normal development of the nervous system.
The other study examined several cases of infants with breathing problems and uncovered botulism strains in their faeces similar toxins to those recovered in several infants who died of SIDS.