Prenatal Exposure to Tetrachloroethylene (PCE) Linked to Pregnancy Complications

Drinking Water and Tetrachloroethylene (PCE)Consuming drinking water contaminated with tetrachloroethylene (PCE) during pregnancy may increase the risk of pregnancy complications such as stillbirth and placental abruption, concludes a new study published in the journal Environmental Health.

Tetrachloroethylene (tetrachloroethene, perchloroethylene, PCE, PERC) is a colorless liquid with a sweet odor widely used for the dry cleaning of fabrics. Previous studies have linked prenatal PCE exposure to intrauterine growth restriction and stillbirth.

For the present study, lead researcher Ann Aschengrau, professor of epidemiology at the Boston University School of Public Health, and her research team compared 1,091 pregnancies exposed to PCE prenatally and 1,019 unexposed pregnancies among a total of 1,766 women in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The water supply in the area became contaminated in the late 1960s to the early 1980s by the installation of vinyl-lined asbestos cement pipes.

The researchers estimated tetrachloroethylene exposure using water-distribution system modeling software. The mothers involved in the study self-reported pregnancy complications.

Of the total number of pregnancies, pregnancy complications associated with placental dysfunction affected nine percent of the pregnancies. Compared to unexposed pregnancies, women with high prenatal PCE exposure had 2.38 times the risk of stillbirth and 1.35 times the risk of placental abruption. Women with higher levels of exposure also had an increased risk of vaginal bleeding during pregnancy.

Comments Aschengrau, “We need to have a better understanding of the impact of this common drinking water contaminant on all aspects of pregnancy.”

The study did not find any link between prenatal PCE exposure and preeclampsia or newborns born small-for-gestational-age.

Add the researchers, “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.”

In other words, exposure to tetrachloroethylene during pregnancy can increase the risk of certain pregnancy complications.


Prenatal drinking-water exposure to tetrachloroethylene and ischemic placental disease: a retrospective cohort study:
Study links contaminated water to pregnancy complications:

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