Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Major new UNC-based drinking water study suggests pregnancy fears may be overstated

01.08.2005


Fears that chemical byproducts resulting from purifying drinking water with chlorine boost the chances that pregnant women will miscarry were not supported by the results of a major new study. If such threats exist at all, which is uncertain, they likely are modest, it concludes.



The national study, directed by University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill scientists, contrasts with earlier, less detailed work done in Northern California and published in 1998. That research suggested an association between byproducts known as trihalomethanes and loss of pregnancy.

"We think our new work should be an important contribution to policy studies," said principal investigator Dr. David A. Savitz of the UNC School of Public Health. "While it is not the final answer, what we found is largely reassuring relative to what had come before.


"The vast majority of the U.S. population is living with these exposures to drinking water byproducts," Savitz said. "If they clearly increased women’s miscarriage rates, that would be a very big, very expensive problem to solve. Reducing exposure would be quite expensive for the water utilities and ultimately their customers."

The methods used in the new work make it the most ambitious and sophisticated study ever done on this issue, he said.

Savitz, Cary C. Boshamer distinguished professor and chair of epidemiology, and colleagues released a report on the investigation today (July 29). The American Water Works Association Research Foundation, a non-partisan, non-profit research group, sponsored it.

Others involved include Dr. Philip C. Singer, professor of environmental sciences and engineering and co-principal investigator, and Drs. Katherine E. Hartmann of obstetrics and gynecology and epidemiology, Amy H. Herring of biostatistics and Howard S. Weinberg of environmental sciences and engineering.

The scientists selected and repeatedly tested three properly functioning water purification facilities, including one with moderate levels of chlorinated disinfection byproducts, one with moderate levels of brominated disinfection byproducts and one with low levels of all disinfection byproducts. None of the utilities was selected because of water quality or health problems.

Between December 2000 and April 2004, the team recruited 3,132 women in the three areas who were planning a pregnancy or who had been pregnant for fewer than 12 weeks. They collected extensive information on the volunteers, including their patterns of water use such as drinking and bathing and what later happened with their pregnancies and births. Among tests the women underwent were ultrasound examinations to collect more detailed information about their pregnancies.

Researchers then, after adjusting for such factors as age, education, alcohol use and prior pregnancy histories, analyzed the data to see what effects the byproduct compounds might have had on pregnancy loss (miscarriage).

The study uncovered no clear-cut evidence that trihalomethanes harmed women or their developing infants and as a result differed significantly from the Northern California research, Savitz said. The new work did suggest that brominated compounds and total organic halides at normal-range levels in purified drinking water might modestly increase the risk of miscarriages among pregnant women.

"These latter findings suggest that we or others should take a closer look at individual and groups of chemicals that might have a negative effect on pregnancy," he said. "I don’t want to downplay those findings and say they were perfectly reassuring because they were not. But overall -- on balance -- I’d say this work moves the evidence in a reassuring direction and should serve to lessen concerns."

Because of the overall negative results, he and his colleagues do not plan to make policy recommendations to water managers and municipalities, he said. If possible, future comparable studies ought to include methods for determining actual exposures to purification byproducts more accurately.

"We also looked at exposure to these chemicals in relation to preterm births and did not find an association," Savitz said. "If anything, we found the opposite -- that higher-exposure populations had slightly lower risks. There was some indication, however, that reduced fetal growth might be associated with higher exposure levels."

Particularly helpful to the study were the women who participated and the participating water work utilities, he said.

"We are grateful to all these people since we could not have done this useful study without their active cooperation," Savitz said.

A number of earlier investigations have suggested that long-term exposure to water purification byproducts might be related to bladder cancer, an issue not addressed in the present study.

David Williamson | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.unc.edu

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht New study: How does Europe become a leading player for software and IT services?
03.04.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für System- und Innovationsforschung (ISI)

nachricht Reusable carbon nanotubes could be the water filter of the future, says RIT study
30.03.2017 | Rochester Institute of Technology

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Scientist invents way to trigger artificial photosynthesis to clean air

26.04.2017 | Materials Sciences

Ammonium nitrogen input increases the synthesis of anticarcinogenic compounds in broccoli

26.04.2017 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

SwRI-led team discovers lull in Mars' giant impact history

26.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>