Estimated Effects of Disinfection Byproducts on Birth Weight in a Population Served by a Single Water Utility

  • C. Lewis UCLA
  • I.H. Suffet UCLA
  • B. Ritz UCLA
Keywords: birth weight, chloroform, environmental exposure, fetal growth retardation, pregnancy trimester, second, trihalomethanes, water


Research has suggested that trihalomethane exposures during pregnancy might impair fetal growth. Most
epidemiologic studies, however, relied on relatively crude exposure assessment methods and did not examine racial/ethnic subgroups. During 1999–2001, vital records data were obtained for a large, racially diverse population residing in 27 Massachusetts communities that received drinking water from a single public utility. The water system was monitored weekly for trihalomethanes and, system-wide, it maintained geographically stable total trihalomethane levels during the study period. The authors examined the effects of trimester-specific and pregnancy average exposures to total trihalomethane in drinking water on term low birth weight in all singleton births. A high average total trihalomethane exposure (70 lg/liter) during the second trimester increased the risk of term low birth weight (odds ratio ¼ 1.50, 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.07, 2.10). The estimated risk increase for Caucasians during the second trimester was 37% (95% CI: 0.80, 2.36), while for all minority women combined (i.e., African Americans, Hispanics, and Asians) it was 60% (95% CI: 1.03, 2.47). The study data suggest that high levels (70 lg/liter) of trihalomethanes experienced during the second trimester and pregnancy overall may affect fetal growth.


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