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

acilities, 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 comparabl
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Source:University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


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