News release: MDH and partners launch study to protect families from harmful chemicals
Health Partners logo

News Release
June 25, 2015

Contact information
West Site Community Health Services logo

MDH and partners launch study to protect families from harmful chemicals

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) is teaming up with HealthPartners clinics and HealthPartners Institute for Education and Research, and the SoLaHmo Partnership for Health and Wellness/West Side Community Health Services to launch a new health research project designed to protect families and communities from three harmful chemicals: mercury, lead and cadmium.

Minnesota Family Environmental Exposure Tracking (MN FEET) will focus on Hmong, Latina, Somali and White women in Minnesota who receive prenatal care at some HealthPartners and West Side clinics. The project starts in June and will include up to 600 women over two years.

Mercury, lead and cadmium can get into women’s bodies from some food, products and the environment. MN FEET will inform women if these chemicals are in their bodies and their newborn babies. The project team will examine if differences in exposure exist among the four communities. Also, the program will help pregnant women learn how to avoid coming into contact with these chemicals.

“This is part of our effort to ensure that every baby has a healthy start,” said Dr. Kathleen A. Culhane-Pera, associate medical director and co-director of Community Based Research at West Side. “What we learn from MN FEET will be important to the communities, families and patients served at West Side.”

Pregnant women receiving care at the following clinics may be contacted by clinic staff to hear more about the project and be invited to join:

  • La Clinica
  • East Side Family Clinic
  • McDonough Homes Clinic
  • HealthPartners St. Paul
  • HealthPartners Health Center for Women

Women who consent to join the project will be asked to answer a questionnaire over the phone. At the birth, the woman’s care team will collect urine and cord blood samples from the mother to test for mercury, lead and cadmium. Each participant will receive their test results and information on how to protect their family from these chemicals. If the test results are high, MDH will work with the baby’s family to identify the source and reduce exposure.

“MN FEET is important because it will identify the harmful chemicals that women and children in some communities are getting exposed to,” said Amira Adawe, planner and health educator at St. Paul-Ramsey County Public Health. “The study will help reduce disparities in environmental exposures.”

MN FEET is part of the Minnesota Biomonitoring Program at MDH, which tracks exposures to chemicals in vulnerable Minnesota populations with a focus on pregnant women, children and disadvantaged communities. This program can provide data to inform decisions and evaluate actions for protecting future generations. For more information, go to Minnesota Family Environmental Exposure Tracking (MN FEET).


Media inquiries:

Scott Smith
MDH Communications