Posted on March 22nd, 2007
Birth Defects & Hazardous Waste Sites - US Study
The US in 1999 had over 1400 Superfund sitesâ€” hazardous waste sites included on the Environmental Protection Agencyâ€™s National Priority List for cleanup. Does living near one raise the risk for birth defects?
In this large study by the California Birth Defects Monitoring Program, interviews were conducted with mothers of babies with 3 common birth defects as well as mothers of healthy infantsâ€”over 2000 women in all. Interviews were conducted with mothers of 201 infants with conotruncal heart defects (84% of those identified), 439 mothers of infants with cleft lip and/or cleft palate (82% of those identified), and mothers of 455 infants without birth defects (72% of those identified). Subjects were drawn from more than 344,000 births from January 1987 to December 1988.
Only 0.6% of the mothers interviewed lived within 1/4 mile of a Superfund site during early pregnancy. About half of these women lived on military bases. Consequently, hazardous waste sites were a possible factor in only a small number of birth defects cases: 8 of the 507 babies with neural tube defects and 3 of the 201 babies with heart defects were born to mothers living within 1/4 mile of Superfund sites.
However,the study did draw the conclusion that women who lived within 1/4 mile of a Superfund site during the first 3 months of pregnancy had a greater risk of having babies with certain birth defects (contruncal heart defects - four times as likely; neural tube defects - 2 times as likely). Cleft lip and cleft palate occurred no more frequently than expected (quote) amongst those resident within 1/4 mile of a site.
Women who lived farther than 1/4 mile from sites were not at higher risk.
The very small number of cases around hazardous waste sites means the findings do not have strong statistical power. However, they do support earlier research hinting at higher risk.
- Birth Defects & Hazardous Waste Sites. The California Birth Defects Monitoring Program April 1999 3pp. Reference: http://www.cbdmp.org/ef_waste.htm [accessed 22 March 2007] [↩]
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