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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

BU Study Finds Contaminated Water Linked to Pregnancy Complications

Prenatal exposure to tetrachloroethylene (PCE) in drinking water may increase the risk of stillbirth and placental abruption, according to a new study led by  Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) researcher Dr. Ann Aschengrau, professor of epidemiology at BUSPH.

Published in the journal Environmental Health, the study compared 1,091 PCE-exposed pregnancies and 1,019 unexposed pregnancies among 1,766 women in Cape Cod, MA, where water was contaminated in the late 1960s to the early 1980s by the installation of vinyl-lined asbestos cement pipes.

Of the more than 2,000 pregnancies, nine percent were complicated by pregnancy disorders associated with placental dysfunction. Pregnancies among women with high PCE exposure had 2.38 times the risk of stillbirth and 1.35 times the risk of placental abruption, compared to unexposed pregnancies. Also, the study found an elevated risk of vaginal bleeding in pregnancies where women had PCE exposure greater than or equal to the sample median.

Dr. Aschengrau said the study findings support a small body of prior research indicating that PCE exposure may impact placental function and fetal growth. However, further investigation of related disorders is needed. “We need to have a better understanding of the impact of this common drinking water contaminant on all aspects of pregnancy,” said Dr. Aschengrau, who has led numerous prior studies on the health effects of PCE.

To read more about the study, go to: