Exposure to toxic chemicals can increase risk of preterm births
SFU health sciences professor Bruce Lanphear has produced a new video warning that exposure to lead, second-hand smoke, pesticides and other environmental chemicals can increase the risk of preterm births.
He created Little Things Matter: The Impact of Toxins on Preterm Birth, to explain how exposure to toxic chemicals can increase the number of children born too soon.
“While a single toxin may shorten pregnancy by only three to seven days, the cumulative impact of exposure to many toxins can be substantial,” says Lanphear.
The video points to research showing that women in England with higher levels of lead in their blood were twice as likely to give birth too soon, and that preterm births in Scotland declined by 15 per cent in non-smokers after smoking was banned in public places.
Babies who are born preterm, which is three or more weeks before their due date, are more likely to die during their first year of life, develop heart disease, diabetes or have trouble learning.
Preterm birth is a key indicator of population health and can stem from infection, poor nutrition, or having twins or triplets. However, these factors only account for about one-third of the 15 million babies who are born prematurely across the globe each year.
Lanphear, an expert on children’s environmental health, also highlights the variation in the number of preterm births between countries.
“Fewer than 10 per cent of babies are born prematurely in some countries and as many as 18 per cent are born too soon in other countries,” he says.
Little Things Matter: The Impact of Toxins on Preterm Birth is part of the Canadian Environmental Health Atlas, a website that raises awareness about the myriad ways that the environment can affect human health. The video is funded by the CA Community Investment Program and the Artemis Fund in the Faculty of Health Sciences.