Scientists Examine Role of Environmental Toxins in PrematureBirth

Doctors and researchers are convening this week at the National Academy of Sciences Auditorium to discuss the impact of factors such as smoking, stress, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and particulate emissions on preterm birth.

Doctors and researchers from the United States and Canada are convening this week at the National Academy of Sciences Auditorium to discuss the impact of factors such as smoking, stress, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and particulate emissions on preterm birth.

Sponsored by the Institute of Medicine''s Roundtable on Environmental Health Sciences, Research, and Medicine and the March of Dimes, this conference is the first time scientists from North America will gather to discuss the possible effects of environmental toxins on the growing rate of premature births in the United States.

"Each year in the United States, more than 440,000 babies are born too soon. Since the early 1980s, the rate of preterm birth in this country has actually increased by 23 percent and we need to know why," says Donald R. Mattison, M.D., medical director of the March of Dimes. Mattison has played a central role in organizing this workshop, along with the Institute of Medicine and other national agencies.

"This workshop is an opportunity for doctors and researchers to share what they''ve learned so we can begin to see if there is a correlation between environmental toxins and prematurity, and then develop new strategies to reduce prematurity in this country," he adds.

Mattison said that whether the group determines toxins are a direct or secondary cause of premature births, their findings can guide which interventions are taken in the future to insure that all births result in healthy babies.

by Sandy Smith

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