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Oct 01, 2014 07:36 AM EDT

Contaminated Water Triggers Pregnancy Complications, Study

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Contaminated water leads to pregnancy complications, according to a Boston University School of Public Health study.

Researchers said that prenatal exposure to tetrachloroethylene (PCE) in drinking water heightens risk of stillbirth and placental abruption.

Previous studies highlighted the risk of PCE exposure on placental function and fetal growth.

For the study, researchers used data from the Cape Cod Family Health Study. They compared 1,091 PCE-exposed pregnancies and 1,019 unexposed pregnancies among 1,766 women in Cape Cod, Ma., where water was contaminated between 1960s and 1980s due to the installation of vinyl-lined asbestos cement pipes.

Women who participated in the study gave birth to at least one child between 1969 and 1983 and were living in one of eight Cape Cod towns with contaminated pipes at the time of the child's birth.

PCE exposure was measured using water-distribution system modeling software, while data on pregnancy complications were self-reported by mothers.

Researchers found that women with high PCE exposure faced 2.38 times the risk of stillbirth and 1.35 times the risk of placental abruption when compared to unexposed pregnancies. Plus, an elevated risk of vaginal bleeding occurred in women with PCE exposure.

The study, however, found no link between PCE exposure and preeclampsia or delivery of small-for-gestational-age (SGA) infants.

"Our results suggest that prenatal PCE exposure is not associated with all obstetric complications, but may increase the risk of certain ones, including stillbirth and placental abruption. We need to have a better understanding of the impact of this common drinking water contaminant on all aspects of pregnancy," said Lead researcher Ann Aschengrau, professor of epidemiology, said in a press release.

The finding is published in the journal Environmental Health.

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