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ECU research team to investigate environmental pollution in the South West

Thursday, 28 August 2008

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Edith Cowan University (ECU) Environmental Management researcher, Dr Andrea Hinwood is looking for pregnant women in the south west to participate in a study investigating whether environmental pollutants in the South West region are significant enough to affect the health of unborn babies.

Current research indicates that a number of persistent toxic substances such as heavy metals and chemicals used in industry and insecticides, can impact on a child's health if the levels are significant. Many toxic substances are considered 'persistent' as they can increase in concentration over time, are transported through air, water and soil.

Dr Hinwood has been awarded $115,000 from the Australian Research Council (ARC) to study the toxic effects of pollutant and metals found in the environment on the unborn child through monitoring blood samples taken from expecting mothers. The research team are looking for 160 non-smoking first-time pregnant mums living in Bunbury, Busselton, Collie, Albany, Mount Barker or Esperance. Participants will be required to answer a questionnaire about lifestyle and diet, keep a diet diary and provide a blood, urine and drinking water samples. The four-year study is a collaboration between ECU, the Artic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP) and the University of Western Australia.

The AMAP has developed a highly successful approach to measuring levels of pollutants and assessing the health effects in eight artic countries for several years. Dr Hinwood says that although research has been carried out in a number of other countries, only a few studies have investigated persistent environmental pollutants and their health effects in Australia. "We are hoping to determine the levels of persistent toxic chemicals in pregnant women in WA and in particular, if there are any regional differences or differences caused by diet and environmental factors," she said. "Urbanisation, industrial development, agriculture and environmental change has seen an increase in the levels of toxic substances and heavy metals in our environment and we need to determine if these levels are high enough to cause ill-health effects."

Anyone interested in taking part in the study should contact Caroline Barton on 1800 655 398 for more information.

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Corporate Communications
(08) 6304 2131
0402 016 344
pr@ecu.edu.au
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