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Am J Epidemiol. 1995 May 1;141(9):850-62.

Public drinking water contamination and birth outcomes.

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Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, US Department of Health and Human Services, Atlanta, GA 30333, USA.


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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