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Environ Health Perspect. 2007 Feb;115(2):290-5. Epub 2006 Oct 4.

Estimated effects of disinfection by-products on preterm birth in a population served by a single water utility.

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Environmental Science and Engineering Program, Department of Environmental Health Sciences, School of Public Health, University of California, Los Angeles, California, USA.



We evaluated the association between drinking-water disinfection by-products and preterm births using improved exposure assessment and more appropriate analysis methods than used in prior studies.


During 1999-2001, vital record data were obtained for a large, racially diverse population residing in 27 Massachusetts communities that received drinking water from a single public utility. This water system was monitored weekly for total trihalomethanes (TTHM), and it maintained geographically stable total TTHM levels system-wide during the study period. We employed proportional hazards regression to examine the effects of trimester-specific and shorter-term peak exposures to TTHM in drinking water late in pregnancy on preterm births in 37,498 singletons.


For all women, our data suggested no more than a small increase, if any, in risk for delivering a preterm baby when exposed to > or = 60 microg/L TTHM during the 4 weeks before birth [hazard ratio (HR) = 1.13; 95% confidence interval (CI), 0.95-1.35]. However, women who depended on a governmental source of payment for prenatal care were at increased risk when exposed at such levels late in gestation (HR = 1.39; 95% CI, 1.06-1.81). In contrast, exposure to high levels of TTHM during the second trimester and high exposure throughout pregnancy resulted in a 15-18% reduction in risk for preterm delivery in our population.


This finding confirms previous reports of a negative association during the second trimester. Our data also suggested a possible positive association with shorter-term third-trimester TTHM exposure in mothers of lower socioeconomic status.

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