Tobacco and alcohol use during pregnancy is a serious public health concern, resulting in adverse obstetrical and neonatal outcomes including miscarriage, preeclampsia, low birth weight, preterm delivery, fetal growth restriction, decreased head circumference, placenta abruption, and facial abnormalities.

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) encompass growth retardation, cognitive impairments, and craniofacial dysmorphology associated due to prenatal alcohol exposure. In addition, it can result in a profound impact on infant brain structure and function, infant irritability, and risk for child behavioral and attention disorders [7, 8]. Despite these documented health risks, in the 2015 US National Survey of Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 13.9% of pregnant respondents reported current tobacco use and 9.3% current alcohol use. Identifying prenatal alcohol and tobacco exposure is often achieved through meconium drug quantification and/ or maternal self-reported drug use during pregnancy.

Meconium is a good matrix for in utero drug exposure assessment in pregnancies carried to term. Although meconium formation begins as early as 13 weeks, other methods must assess earlier exposure. In this study, we examined whether analysis of fetal liver and placenta from electively terminated pregnancies could determine exposure patterns during the second trimester.

Solid phase extraction (SPE) is the most efficient method for extraction of the metabolites of tobacco and ethanol from such a complex matrix as meconium, in a recent paper by Madeleine J. Swortwood et al., published in Forensic Toxicology ((2018) 36:102–112) UCT’s fritted filters (10 µm, 15 mL) were employed as an integral part of the SPE procedure.

The developed SPE method was validated in terms of sensitivity, linearity, specificity, accuracy, imprecision, extraction efficiency, matrix effect, dilution integrity, carryover, and stability were evaluated according to Scientific Working Group for Forensic Toxicology (SWGTOX) guidelines.

This SPE procedure using UCT fritted filters is the first to offer simultaneous extraction of ethanol, nicotine metabolites, from a human fetal liver or placenta sample. Although initial tissue extraction was simultaneous, marked physiochemical differences between acidic ethanol and basic nicotine metabolites required different SPE and liquid chromatography approaches.

When forensic toxicologists are challenged with such complex matrices as meconium and placenta samples, UCT’s fritted filters are the best addition to SPE extraction to ensure the cleanest and most efficient procedures.