November 20, 2007
News from Health Canada

OTTAWA - As a part of Canada's Chemicals Management Plan, the Maternal-Infant Research on Environmental Chemicals (MIREC) study will generate important new knowledge on the levels of exposure of pregnant women and their infants to common chemicals.

MIREC is a national five-year study that is recruiting about 2,000 women from 10 cities across Canada during the first trimester of pregnancy and following them through the birth of their child and up to eight weeks after birth. The study is a collaborative effort among Health Canada scientists, Sainte-Justine Hospital in Montreal, and clinical researchers from Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg, Sudbury, Ottawa, Kingston, Hamilton, Toronto and Halifax. Sainte-Justine Hospital is the coordinating centre for the study.

The study will collect body fluids and tissues from mothers and their infants to obtain national data on their exposure to environmental chemicals, as committed to under the Chemicals Management Plan. The study will also assess the potential risks, if any, associated with exposure to heavy metals, such as lead and mercury, during pregnancy.

Another goal of this research is to obtain data on the levels of nutrients, environmental chemicals, and immuno-protective elements in breast milk. This will assist in developing nutrition programs and policies for breastfeeding women.

The MIREC study will also examine the impacts of tobacco smoke exposure on mothers and infants. These data will be useful for governments and public health professionals to develop policies and programs that encourage pregnant women to quit smoking and avoid exposure to second-hand smoke.

Biological samples taken from study participants will be analyzed by the Centre de Toxicologie du Québec and Health Canada, with results expected at the end of the five-year study in 2012.

This study is co-funded by Health Canada, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Ontario Ministry of the Environment. This study complements the Canadian Health Measures Survey, launched nationally earlier this year, which is collecting biological samples and information on health, lifestyle and environmental chemicals from 5,000 Canadians between the ages of six and 79. Both studies will analyze samples for chemical substances such as: lead, mercury, cadmium, manganese, arsenic, phthalates, brominated flame retardants, cotinine, bisphenol A, and perfluorinated compounds, and include questions to identify potential sources of exposure to these substances.

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