Why This Study?

This recent article in Nature demonstrates that with the current political climate, private funding is essential to support the initial stages of the Heartland Study. As we publish results, public concern will likely compel government science agencies to broaden and accelerate the search for answers.

Given recently announced federal reductions in funding for vital, ongoing long-term children’s health research, there is no chance, at least in the near term, for meaningful federal support for the Heartland Study. Hence, our need to seek public and philanthropic support.

To the best of our knowledge there has never been a pesticide-focused, hospital-based study of this scale conducted with private funding anywhere in the world.

No study as ever been conducted in a human population designed to assess the epigenetic impacts of prenatal chemical exposures (in our case, exposures to herbicides).

Likewise, the Heartland Study will be the first clinically based research study capable of identifying the impact of cumulative herbicide exposures on birth outcomes. We will also pioneer methods to determine which herbicides are most significantly contributing to adverse birth and developmental outcomes, in contrast to those herbicides less likely to be associated with adverse birth outcomes.

Accomplishing our cutting-edge scientific goals will require a large number of mother-infant pairs (MIPs), and considerable funding to carry out the enrollment process, so that we can conduct sensitive, high-quality laboratory testing of herbicide levels in the urine of pregnant women and their babies, and in order to track the development of infants born to women enrolled in the study through at least age 3.

Why 2,000 MIPs?

Enrolling 2,000 mother-infant pairs will increase the statistical power of our study.

We hope to enroll at least 2,000 mother-infant pairs (MIPs) in the Heartland Study over six years — an ambitious and costly goal, but one essential in order to increase the statistical power of the study.

What is “statistical power” and why is it important? The statistical power of a human health, epidemiological study is driven by the sample size — the number of people enrolled. The more people in a study, the greater the chance that low-probability events will be reliably detected, or ruled out. Such “events” include rare birth defects, unusual developmental abnormalities, and other adverse birth outcomes or reproductive problems.

The Heartland Study is designed to tackle another complex challenge — sorting out the contribution to adverse birth outcomes of individual herbicides, as well as the combinations of herbicides to which each MIP has been exposed.

Accomplishing our cutting-edge scientific goals will require a large number of MIPs, and considerable funding to carry out the enrollment process, for sensitive, high-quality laboratory testing of herbicide levels in the urine of pregnant women and their babies, and in order to track the development of infants born to women enrolled in the study through at least age 3.

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