The Effect of Trihalomethane and Haloacetic Acid Exposure on Fetal Growth in a Maryland County

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As water flows from treatment plants to the tap, chlorine, used to disinfect surface water meant for residential use, reacts with residual organic and inorganic matter, creating chlorine disinfection by-products. In recent years, these by-products have been scrutinized as a potential reproductive and developmental hazard. This study examined whether exposure to the four total trihalomethanes or the five haloacetic acids (two major subgroups of chlorine disinfection by-products) was related to an increased risk of intrauterine growth retardation in four regions of a Maryland county from 1998 to 2002. Maternal exposure to each by-product was evaluated for each trimester as well as over the entire pregnancy. The authors were not able to demonstrate any consistent, statistically significant effect on intrauterine growth retardation associated with any of the chlorine disinfection by-products, nor did they find any indication of a dose-response relation. However, they did find some potential for a slightly elevated risk of intrauterine growth retardation during the second and third trimesters for both total trihalomethanes and five haloacetic acids when comparing increasing quintiles of exposure to constituents of total trihalomethanes and five haloacetic acids.

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