Maternal perchlorate exposure in pregnancy and altered birth outcomes

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Abstract

Background:

At high medicinal doses perchlorate is known to decrease the production of thyroid hormone, a critical factor for fetal development. In a large and uniquely exposed cohort of pregnant women, we recently identified associations between environmental perchlorate exposures and decreased maternal thyroid hormone during pregnancy. Here, we investigate whether perchlorate might be associated with birthweight or preterm birth in the offspring of these women.

Methods:

Maternal urinary perchlorate, serum thyroid hormone concentrations, birthweight, gestational age, and urinary nitrate, thiocyanate, and iodide were collected in 1957 mother-infant pairs from San Diego County during 2000–2003, a period when the county's water supply was contaminated with perchlorate. Associations between perchlorate exposure and birth outcomes were examined using linear and logistic regression analyses adjusted for maternal age, weight, race/ethnicity, and other factors.

Results:

Perchlorate was not associated with birth outcomes in the overall population. However, in analyses confined to male infants, log10 maternal perchlorate concentrations were associated with increasing birthweight (β=143.1 gm, p=0.01), especially among preterm births (β=829.1 g, p<0.001). Perchlorate was associated with male preterm births ≥2500 g (odds ratio=3.03, 95% confidence interval=1.09–8.40, p-trend=0.03). Similar associations were not seen in females.

Conclusions:

This is the first study to identify associations between perchlorate and increasing birthweight. Further research is needed to explore the differences we identified related to infant sex, preterm birth, and other factors. Given that perchlorate exposure is ubiquitous, and that long-term impacts can follow altered birth outcomes, future research on perchlorate could have widespread public health importance.

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