April 23, 2007

Alberta to test blood of women, children for toxics exposure

By: Mark Sabourin

EDMONTON, ALTA-In an effort it says is a Canadian first, the Alberta government will test the blood of 30,000 pregnant women and 1,500 children, to establish a baseline level for toxics exposure in the province. The $1-million project is being funded by Alberta Health and Wellness and is part of its public health surveillance mandate. The tests will be conducted by the University of Calgary's Centre for Toxicology, along with experts at the University of Alberta. No one will be asked to roll up their sleeves, said Howard May of Alberta Health and Wellness. The study will use blood already collected as part of routine testing during pregnancy and after birth. Because the blood has already been submitted for testing, consent is not required, May explained. He said the blood will be tested for a wide range of environmental contaminants, such as PCB, dioxins, pesticides, herbicides and metals. "If you broke it down into specific chemicals, there would be over a hundred," he said, adding, "This kind of bio-monitoring has become the gold standard around the world." May said the results will be reported publicly once the testing is complete, likely sometime this fall.

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