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      Individual exposures to drinking water trihalomethanes, low birth weight and small for gestational age risk: a prospective Kaunas cohort study

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          Evidence for an association between exposure during pregnancy to trihalomethanes (THMs) in drinking water and impaired fetal growth is still inconsistent and inconclusive, in particular, for various exposure routes. We examined the relationship of individual exposures to THMs in drinking water on low birth weight (LBW), small for gestational age (SGA), and birth weight (BW) in singleton births.


          We conducted a cohort study of 4,161 pregnant women in Kaunas (Lithuania), using individual information on drinking water, ingestion, showering and bathing, and uptake factors of THMs in blood, to estimate an internal dose of THM. We used regression analysis to evaluate the relationship between internal THM dose and birth outcomes, adjusting for family status, education, smoking, alcohol consumption, body mass index, blood pressure, ethnic group, previous preterm, infant gender, and birth year.


          The estimated internal dose of THMs ranged from 0.0025 to 2.40 mg/d. We found dose-response relationships for the entire pregnancy and trimester-specific THM and chloroform internal dose and risk for LBW and a reduction in BW. The adjusted odds ratio for third tertile vs. first tertile chloroform internal dose of entire pregnancy was 2.17, 95% CI 1.19-3.98 for LBW; the OR per every 0.1 μg/d increase in chloroform internal dose was 1.10, 95% CI 1.01-1.19. Chloroform internal dose was associated with a slightly increased risk of SGA (OR 1.19, 95% CI 0.87-1.63 and OR 1.22, 95% CI 0.89-1.68, respectively, for second and third tertile of third trimester); the risk increased by 4% per every 0.1 μg/d increase in chloroform internal dose (OR 1.04, 95% CI 1.00-1.09).


          THM internal dose in pregnancy varies substantially across individuals, and depends on both water THM levels and water use habits. Increased internal dose may affect fetal growth.

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          Most cited references 35

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          Public drinking water contamination and birth outcomes.

          The effects of public drinking water contamination on birth outcomes were evaluated in an area of northern New Jersey. After excluding plural births and chromosomal defects, 80,938 live births and 594 fetal deaths that occurred during the period 1985-1988 were studied. Information on birth outcome status and maternal risk factors was obtained from vital records and the New Jersey Birth Defects Registry. Monthly exposures during pregnancy were estimated for all births using tap water sample data. Odds ratios of > or = 1.50 were found for the following: total trihalomethanes with small for gestational age, central nervous system defects, oral cleft defects, and major cardiac defects; carbon tetrachloride with term low birth weight, small for gestational age, very low birth weight, total surveillance birth defects, central nervous system defects, neural tube defects, and oral cleft defects; trichloroethylene with central nervous system defects, neural tube defects, and oral cleft defects; tetrachloroethylene with oral cleft defects; total dichloroethylenes with central nervous system defects and oral cleft defects; benzene with neural tube defects and major cardiac defects; and 1,2-dichloroethane with major cardiac defects. Total trihalomethane levels > 100 ppb reduced birth weight among term births by 70.4 g. By itself, this study cannot resolve whether the drinking water contaminants caused the adverse birth outcomes; therefore, these findings should be followed up utilizing available drinking water contamination databases.
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            Chlorination disinfection byproducts in water and their association with adverse reproductive outcomes: a review.

            Chlorination has been the major disinfectant process for domestic drinking water for many years. Concern about the potential health effects of the byproducts of chlorination has prompted the investigation of the possible association between exposure to these byproducts and incidence of human cancer, and more recently, with adverse reproductive outcomes. This paper evaluates both the toxicological and epidemiological data involving chlorination disinfection byproducts (DBPs) and adverse reproductive outcomes, and makes recommendations for future research. Relatively few toxicological and epidemiological studies have been carried out examining the effects of DBPs on reproductive health outcomes. The main outcomes of interest so far have been low birth weight, preterm delivery, spontaneous abortions, stillbirth, and birth defects--in particular central nervous system, major cardiac defects, oral cleft, and respiratory, and neural tube defects. Various toxicological and epidemiological studies point towards an association between trihalomethanes (THMs), one of the main DBPs and marker for total DBP load, and (low) birth weight, although the evidence is not conclusive. Administered doses in toxicological studies have been high and even though epidemiological studies have mostly shown excess risks, these were often not significant and the assessment of exposure was often limited. Some studies have shown associations for DBPs and other outcomes such as spontaneous abortions, stillbirth and birth defects, and although the evidence for these associations is weaker it is gaining weight. There is no evidence for an association between THMs and preterm delivery. The main limitation of most studies so far has been the relatively crude methodology, in particular for assessment of exposure. Large, well designed epidemiological studies focusing on well defined end points taking into account relevant confounders and with particular emphasis on exposure characterisation are ideally needed to confirm or refute these preliminary findings. In practice, these studies may be impracticable, partly due to the cost involved, but this is an issue that can be put right--for example, by use of subsets of the population in the design of exposure models. The studies should also reflect differences of culture and water treatment in different parts of the world. To identify the specific components that may be of aetiological concern and hence to fit the most appropriate exposure model with which to investigate human exposure to chlorinated DBPs, further detailed toxicological assessments of the mixture of byproducts commonly found in drinking water are also needed.
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              Drinking water contaminants and adverse pregnancy outcomes: a review.

              Concern for exposures to drinking water contaminants and their effects on adverse birth outcomes has prompted several studies evaluating chlorination disinfection by-products and chlorinated solvents. Some of these contaminants are found to be teratogenic in animal studies. This review evaluates 14 studies on chlorination disinfection by-products such as trihalomethanes (THMs) and five studies on chlorinated solvents such as trichloroethylene (TCE). The adverse birth outcomes discussed in this review include small for gestational age (SGA), low birth weight, preterm birth, birth defects, spontaneous abortions, and fetal deaths. Because of heterogeneities across the studies in the characterization of birth outcomes, the assessment and categorization of exposures, and the levels and mixtures of contaminants, a qualitative review was conducted. Generally, the chief bias in these studies was exposure misclassification that most likely underestimated the risk, as well as distorted exposure-response relationships. The general lack of confounding bias by risk factors resulted from these factors not being associated with drinking water exposures. The studies of THMs and adverse birth outcomes provide moderate evidence for associations with SGA, neural tube defects (NTDs), and spontaneous abortions. Because fewer studies have been conducted for the chlorinated solvents than for THMs, the evidence for associations is less clear. Nevertheless, the findings of excess NTDs, oral clefts, cardiac defects, and choanal atresia in studies that evaluated TCE-contaminated drinking water deserve follow-up.

                Author and article information

                Environ Health
                Environmental Health
                BioMed Central
                19 April 2011
                : 10
                : 32
                [1 ]Department of Environmental Sciences, Vytautas Magnus University, Kaunas, Lithuania
                [2 ]Center for Research in Environmental Epidemiology (CREAL), Barcelona, Spain
                [3 ]Department of Marine Sciences, University of the Aegean, University Hill, Greece
                [4 ]The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, La Verne, CA, USA
                Copyright ©2011 Grazuleviciene et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

                This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


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