Birth study in jeopardy

Health Canada reviewing study on toxic hot spots and birth outcomes

By Tanya Collier MacDonald
Cape Breton Post
Thursday, July 7, 2003

It will be a few more weeks before Health Canada decides if it will continue a study aimed at determining if toxic hot spots are linked to adverse birth outcomes in Cape Breton.

In April, the federal department told Joint Action Group members that scientists working on the project were having difficulty reaching targets. The biggest obstacle was a shortage of pregnant women willing to participate in the study.

Tracey Taweel, spokesperson for the project, said government is reviewing the information gathered before making a final decision.

The study had four objectives:

First, it would determine if the incidence of adverse early-pregnancy outcomes (pre-20 weeks) is higher in the Sydney area than in an appropriate control area, such as Pictou County. Scientists planned to come to this conclusion by using medical records provided by local physicians in keeping with patients' confidentiality.

Second, it would measure the concentrations of contaminants in pregnant women, their newborns' cord blood and the placenta, and to test for evidence of endocrine disruption and contaminant exposure.

Third, to assess values, perceptions and behaviours relating to fertility expectations, conception, pregnancy outcomes and their environment.

Fourth, to integrate and analyze the results of the study, explore implications and evaluate the issue of reproductive health in the Sydney community.