Pregnant mothers who drink or even shower in tap water can double the risk of serious heart and brain abnormalities in their unborn babies, a study has suggested.
The findings, reported in the journal Environmental Health , links by-products of water chlorination – chemicals known as trihalomethanes, or THMs – to increase the risk of holes in the heart, cleft palate and anencephalus, which results in the absence of a major portion of the brain, skull, and scalp.
Babies born in areas where drinking water is heavily disinfected with chlorine are at double the risk of heart problems, cleft palate or major brain defects, according to the study carried out in Taiwan on nearly 400,000 infants.
The disturbing finding suggests that expectant mothers can expose themselves to the higher risk by drinking the water, swimming in chlorinated water, taking a bath or shower, or even by standing close to a boiling kettle.
“The biological mechanism for how these disinfection by-products may cause defects are still unknown,” says Professor Jouni Jaakkola, the author of the report.
“However, our findings don’t just add to the evidence that water chlorination may cause birth defects, but suggest that exposure to chlorination by-products may be responsible for some specific and common defects,” Professor Jaakkola of the University of Birmingham’s Institute of Occupational and Environmental Medicine was quoted as saying by the Daily Telegraph of Britain on Tuesday.
He said though chlorination has been a major public health success by cutting waterborne diseases that earlier study may have missed this effect by not using specific categories of birth defect.
“While the benefits of water chlorination are quite evident, more research needs to be carried out to determine these side-effects,” he says.
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Sources: The Times Of India