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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Participants

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.

Goals

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

Methods

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)

Investigators

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

Co-investigators

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)

Funding

The MIREC study was funded by:

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

Contacts

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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