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Australian Maternal Exposure to Toxic Substances

Friday, 17 June 2011


The Australian Maternal Exposure to Toxic Substances (AMETS) study undertaken by Andrea Hinwood, Anna Callan and Caroline Barton recruited pregnant women in the South West of Western Australia in 2009. The study is examining the extent to which pregnant women are exposed to a range of persistent toxic substances, including metals, brominated flame retardants, perfluorinated compounds and pesticides. It is now recognised that persistent toxic substances, if present at sufficiently high levels, have the potential to affect a child's health, with developing foetuses considered most vulnerable. The levels of toxic substances in maternal blood and urine samples will provide an indication of the level to which foetuses and newborn infants are exposed. Participants complete a questionnaire and diet diary and provide samples of their blood, urine, drinking water, soil and dust in the last weeks of their pregnancy. Following the birth of their child, participants are asked to provide details on the birth outcomes of the infant including their gestational age, sex, birth weight and length. This provides information as to whether the toxic substances under investigation are currently present in the Australian environment at high enough levels to influence birth outcomes. To date it has proved extremely challenging to recruit pregnant women to participate in this study as although people are concerned about the presence of toxic substances in the environment many feel that they 'would rather not know' the extent to which they are exposed. The aim was to recruit 160 women however it became apparent that these numbers would not be possible from the South West alone. For this reason the study has recently expanded and will now be seeking to recruit participants from across WA, with the study currently being promoted widely in areas including Perth metropolitan region, Kalgoorlie and Geraldton. Currently 66 participants have been recruited and it is anticipated that recruitment and sample collection will continue until the end of 2010.

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