issues and experts

Researchers investigate how environmental contaminants impact preterm births

May 17, 2017

Two Simon Fraser University researchers are investigating how widespread exposure to environmental contaminants during pregnancy impact preterm births, and whether toxic chemicals found in everyday environments cause babies to be born too soon.

SFU health sciences professors Lawrence McCandless and Bruce Lanphear will further their work with funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Institute of Human Development, Child and Youth (IHDCYH).

Their research is one of six national projects focusing on new research approaches to preventing preterm birth and improving outcomes for babies born preterm. Together the six projects form one of three initiatives that will share $6.45 million in funding as part of the IHDCYH’s Preterm Birth Initiative.

The other two initiatives will see a Preterm Birth Network established to bring researchers together while a study of Canada’s perinatal health care system with investigate ways to optimize care.

Lanphear is also part of Project Tendr, an alliance of researchers with expertise in children’s environmental health. The scientists have just published recommendations calling for new national standards in the U.S. to eliminate lead poisoning for children within the next five years.


Of the estimated 390,000 babies born annually in Canada, nearly eight per cent are born prematurely, at less than 37 weeks of gestation.

Preterm birth may result in serious health complications for the baby and increase the risk of chronic health conditions to develop later in life, and accounts for nearly two-thirds of infant deaths in Canada.


• Lawrence McCandless, Faculty of Health Sciences, 604.358.3915 (cell);

• Bruce Lanphear, Faculty of Health Sciences, (available after 4pm), 778.387.3939 (cell);