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Environ Health Perspect. 2008 Jun;116(6):814-20. doi: 10.1289/ehp.10414.

Prenatal exposure to tetrachloroethylene-contaminated drinking water and the risk of adverse birth outcomes.

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  • 1Department of Epidemiology, Boston University School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts 02118, USA.



Prior studies of prenatal exposure to tetrachloroethylene (PCE) have shown mixed results regarding its effect on birth weight and gestational age.


In this retrospective cohort study we examined whether PCE contamination of public drinking-water supplies in Massachusetts influenced the birth weight and gestational duration of children whose mothers were exposed before the child's delivery.


The study included 1,353 children whose mothers were exposed to PCE-contaminated drinking water and a comparable group of 772 children of unexposed mothers. Birth records were used to identify subjects and provide information on the outcomes. Mothers completed a questionnaire to gather information on residential histories and confounding variables. PCE exposure was estimated using EPANET water distribution system modeling software that incorporated a fate and transport model.


We found no meaningful associations between PCE exposure and birth weight or gestational duration. Compared with children whose mothers were unexposed during the year of the last menstrual period (LMP), adjusted mean differences in birth weight were 20.9, 6.2, 30.1, and 15.2 g for children whose mothers' average monthly exposure during the LMP year ranged from the lowest to highest quartile. Similarly, compared with unexposed children, adjusted mean differences in gestational age were -0.2, 0.1, -0.1, and -0.2 weeks for children whose mothers' average monthly exposure ranged from the lowest to highest quartile. Similar results were observed for two other measures of prenatal exposure.


These results suggest that prenatal PCE exposure does not have an adverse effect on these birth outcomes at the exposure levels experienced by this population.


birth outcomes; birth weight; drinking-water contamination; gestational duration; low birth weight; perchloroethylene; prematurity; tetrachloroethylene

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