Pregnant Pause: Study Finds PCE Contamination Increases Risk Of Stillbirths

Posted in: Drinking Water News, United States Water News, Water Contamination, Water Health Effects
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Photo credit: “almost five months,” Lillian Vasquez © 2013, used under an Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0

Article courtesy of Sara Jerome | November 3, 2014 | Water Online | Shared as educational material

Exposure to PCE, a common tap water contaminant may increase the risk of stillbirths, according to a new study by Boston University researchers.

The study, published in the journal Environmental Health, found that prenatal exposure to tetrachloroethylene (PCE) “may increase risk of stillbirth.”

The study noted that PCE exposure used to be a common occurrence.

“In New England between the late 1960s and early 1980s, drinking water exposure to PCE (perchloroethylene or tetrachloroethylene) was relatively common as the result of the installation of vinyl-lined asbestos cement (VL/AC) pipes within public water systems. The vinyl lining, a slurry of PCE and vinyl toluene resin, was introduced as a solution to taste and odor problems found in existing pipes,” the report said.

How did the study measure the correlation?

“Women were considered eligible for the parent cohort if they gave birth to at least one child…between 1969 and 1983 and were living in one of eight Cape Cod towns with some documented VL/AC water distribution pipes at the time of the child’s birth,” the study said.

One key factor was how close women lived to the contaminated zones.

“We assigned each woman an initial exposure classification based on a visual inspection of the proximity of her residence to VL/AC pipes, as described above,” the study said.

The findings showed PCE may be damaging to pregnancies.

“When pregnancy complications were assessed individually, we observed modestly elevated risk ratios for vaginal bleeding, and, in certain samples, stillbirth and placental abruption. Future investigation of drinking-water contamination and ischemic placental disease is necessary, as drinking water contamination remains common,” the study said.

Researchers noted that more studies are needed.

“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, a professor at Boston University, according to ;a description of the study from the school.

What does the EPA say about tetrachloroethylene?

“Some people who drink water containing tetrachloroethylene well in excess of the maximum contaminant level (MCL) for many years could have problems with their liver and may have an increased risk of getting cancer,” the agency says.

The MCL for tetrachloroethylene is 0.005 milligrams per liter (mg/L) or 5 parts per billion (ppb), according to the EPA.

“The following treatment method(s) have proven to be effective for removing tetrachloroethylene to below 0.005 mg/L or 5 ppb: granular activated carbon in combination with packed tower aeration,” the EPA said.

Check out Water Online’s Drinking Water Contaminant Removal Solution Center.

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