Univariate predictors of maternal concentrations of environmental chemicals: The MIREC study (Abstract)

Lewin A, Arbuckle TE, Fisher M, Liang CL, Marro L, Davis K, Abdelouahab N, Fraser WD. International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health.  2017 2017 Mar;220(2 Pt A):77-85. doi: 10.1016/j.ijheh.2017.01.001. 


The developing fetus and pregnant woman can be exposed to a variety of environmental chemicals that may adversely affect their health. Moreover, environmental exposure and risk disparities are associated with different social determinants, including socioeconomic status (SES) and demographic indicators. Our aim was to investigate whether and how maternal concentrations of a large panel of persistent and non-persistent environmental chemicals vary according to sociodemographic and lifestyle characteristics in a large pregnancy and birth cohort.


Data were analyzed from the Maternal-Infant Research on Environmental Chemicals (MIREC) Study, a cohort of pregnant women (N = 2001) recruited over four years (2008–2011) in 10 cities across Canada. In all, 1890 urine and 1938 blood samples from the first trimester (1st and 3rd trimester for metals) were analysed and six sociodemographic and lifestyle indicators were assessed: maternal age, household income, parity, smoking status, country of birth and pre-pregnancy body mass index (BMI).


We found these indicators to be significantly associated with many of the chemicals measured in maternal blood and urine. Women born outside Canada had significantly higher concentrations of di-2-ethylhexyl and diethyl phthalate metabolites, higher levels of all metals except cadmium (Cd), as well as higher levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and legacy organochlorine pesticides (OCPs). Nulliparity was associated with higher concentrations of dialkyl phosphates (DAPs), arsenic, dimethylarsinic acid (DMAA), perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) and many of the persistent organic pollutants. Smokers had higher levels of bisphenol A, Cd and perfluorohexane sulfonate, while those women who had never smoked had higher levels of triclosan, DMAA, manganese and some OCPs.


Our results demonstrated that inequitable distribution of exposure to chemicals among populations within a country can occur. Sociodemographic and lifestyle factors are an important component of a thorough risk assessment as they can impact the degree of exposure and may modify the individual’s susceptibility to potential health effects due to differences in lifestyle, cultural diets, and aging.