Byline: SEAN POULTER
CHLORINE which is used to disinfect tap water can contribute to an increased risk of having a stillborn baby, researchers said yesterday.
The chance is up to 21 per cent greater where pregnant women are drinking and washing in water laced with by-products of the chemical.
Experts believe there may also be a link with the birth of unusually small babies.
The study's authors, from Imperial College London, described their finding as 'significant' and called on water companies to restrict their use of chlorine to the minimum levels possible.
The researchers looked at birth statistics in three water company areas: United Utilities, covering the North-West of England; Severn Trent, which serves much of central England; and Northumbrian.
These were then cross-checked with information on the levels of trihalomethanes in the tap water. THMs are created when chlorine reacts with organic matter such as particles of plants or insects in the water.
The research paper concludes: 'Our findings overall suggest a significant association of stillbirths with maternal residence in high THM exposure areas.'
The amount of chlorine in tap water varies across the country depending on water quality, while the quantity of organic matter also varies. The most notable evidence came from the United Utilities area, where there was a 21 per cent 'excess risk' of stillbirth in those towns where the water was high in THMs.
There was a 20 per cent 'excess risk' of having a very low birth weight in these areas and a 19 per cent increase in low birth weight.
A similar pattern was seen in the other two regions, although the difference was much lower.
Consequently, the overall excess risk of stillbirth in areas where the …