Maternal-Infant Research on Environmental Chemicals (MIREC) Research Platform

The Maternal-Infant Research on Environmental Chemicals (MIREC) study began in 2007. It is a national, multi-year, research study.

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The MIREC study involved close to 2,000 women from:

  • Edmonton
  • Halifax
  • Hamilton
  • Kingston
  • Montreal
  • Ottawa
  • Sudbury
  • Toronto
  • Vancouver
  • Winnipeg

The women had to be at least 18 years old and 6 to 13 weeks pregnant to take part in the study. They were followed through pregnancy and for up to 10 weeks after giving birth.


The main goals of this study were to:

  • measure the extent to which pregnant women and their babies are exposed to environmental chemicals, as well as tobacco smoke
  • assess what health risks, if any, are linked to exposure to increased levels of environmental chemicals
  • measure the levels of environmental chemicals and nutritional factors in human milk
  • collect small amounts of body fluids from consenting participants to store in the MIREC biobank for further research on:
    • pregnancy
    • fetal growth
    • health of mother and child


The MIREC study measured metals, such as:

  • lead
  • arsenic
  • mercury
  • cadmium
  • manganese

It also measured chemicals, including:

  • phthalates and bisphenol A (BPA), which are used to make plastics and vinyl
  • polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), which are added to products to make them less likely to catch fire
  • organophosphate (OP) pesticides, most of which are used in agriculture for insect control and usually do not persist in the environment
    • the OP pesticides have been subject to a thorough, recent and science-based re-evaluation by Health Canada
  • polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), formerly used as an ingredient in many industrial materials
  • triclosan, a chemical used as a preservative as well as to kill or remove bacteria in various products, such as:
    • soaps
    • toothpaste
    • skin cleaners
  • cotinine, which is a by-product of smoking
  • perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs), which are used when making grease and water repellents used on products including:
    • clothing
    • furniture
    • cookware

Markers of exposure to environmental chemicals and tobacco smoke were measured in the mothers':

  • hair
  • milk
  • urine
  • blood

These markers were also measured in their babies':

  • first stool (meconium)
  • umbilical cord blood (collected at birth)

Nutrients in human breast milk were also studied, such as:

  • vitamin D
  • fatty acids
  • immune factors
    • breast milk has antibodies and other factors that can help support the infant's developing immune system
  • vitamins and minerals
    • sodium
    • calcium
    • potassium
    • phosphorus
    • magnesium
    • folate (vitamin B9)

Mothers answered questions during each trimester of their pregnancy and after birth. They answered questions about:

  • diet
  • work
  • lifestyle
  • medical history
  • environmental exposures

Some of the children were followed as they grew, to measure:

  • various markers of infant health and development at birth and 6 months of age (MIREC-ID)
  • child behavior at 3 years of age (MIREC-CD3)
  • child growth, behavior, and language and communication skills up to 5 years of age (MIREC-CD Plus)
  • blood or urine concentrations of some chemicals in young children (MIREC-CD Plus)
  • child growth and changes with puberty from middle childhood through the early teenage years (MIREC-ENDO)
  • blood concentrations of some chemicals in older children (MIREC-ENDO)


The MIREC research platform is a group effort among:

  • Health Canada scientists
  • clinical and academic researchers
  • Sainte-Justine Hospital in Montreal

Sainte-Justine Hospital is the coordinating centre for the study. Labs at the Centre de toxicologie du Québec and Health Canada are leading the analysis of body tissues and fluids.

Co-principal investigators

  • Tye Arbuckle, Ph.D., Senior Epidemiologist and Research Scientist, Health Canada, Ottawa
  • Dr. William D. Fraser, M.D., M.Sc., FRCSC, Scientific Director, Centre hospitalier universitaire de Sherbrooke, University of Sherbrooke and CHU Sainte-Justine Research Centre, Montreal


Health Canada

  • Dawn Jin
  • Thea Rawn
  • Bob Dabeka
  • Mandy Fisher
  • Steve Brooks
  • Xu-Liang Cao
  • Kevin Cockell
  • Adam Becalski
  • Renaud Vincent
  • Maya Villeneuve
  • Zhongwen Wang
  • Nimal Ratnayake (retired)
  • Genevieve Bondy
  • Monique D'Amour
  • Isabelle Massarelli
  • Amanda MacFarlane
  • Nick Hidiroglou (deceased)
  • Premkumari Kumarathasan
  • Melissa Legrand (formerly of Health Canada)
  • Sheryl Tittlemier, (formerly of Health Canada)

Other groups

  • Denise Avard (retired)
  • Jean-Philippe Weber (retired)
  • Robert Platt, McGill University
  • Hope Weiler, McGill University
  • Adrienne Ettinger, Yale University
  • Grant Mitchell, CHU Sainte-Justine
  • Zhong-Cheng Luo, CHU Sainte-Justine
  • Alain LeBlanc, The Centre de toxicologie du Québec, INSPQ
  • Pierre Julien, Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Québec (CHUQ)

Site investigators

  • Linda Dodds (Halifax)
  • Warren Foster (Hamilton)
  • Graeme Smith (Kingston)
  • Mathew Sermer (Toronto)
  • Greg Ross and Paul Fredette (Sudbury)
  • Mark Walker and Margaret Lawson (Ottawa)
  • Roberta Shear and William Fraser (Montreal)
  • Michael Helewa and Shayne Taback (Winnipeg)
  • Denise Hemmings and Jingwei Wang (Edmonton)
  • Peter von Dadelszen and Bruce Lanphear (Vancouver)


The MIREC study was funded by:

  • Health Canada
  • The Ontario Ministry of the Environment
  • The Canadian Institutes of Health Research


The MIREC study coordinating centre is located at the Sainte-Justine hospital in Montreal. For more information please refer to your regional contact.

Health Canada's role

The MIREC research platform is a key part of meeting the goals of the Federal Chemicals Management Plan. This plan is a major step forward in reducing the impact of environmental chemicals on human health and the environment.

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