Academic journal article Environmental Health Perspectives

Toxic Neighbors? Fetal Death Risk near Hazardous Waste Sites

Academic journal article Environmental Health Perspectives

Toxic Neighbors? Fetal Death Risk near Hazardous Waste Sites

Article excerpt

The health effects associated with residential proximity to hazardous waste sites are uncertain, and findings on potential links between prenatal exposure to environmental toxicants and outcomes such as miscarriage are mixed. A recent exploratory study in Washington State finds no evidence for an overall association between hazardous waste sites and occurrence of fetal death, but pesticide-containing sites may be an exception [EHP 115:776-780; Mueller et al.].

Using state health department records, researchers examined the occurrence of fetal death, defined as pregnancy loss after 20 weeks' gestation, against the straight-line distance between a mother's home and the nearest hazardous waste site. The team used ten live births for each fetal death as controls and considered several factors that could affect pregnancy outcome, such as maternal smoking, alcohol consumption, age, medical conditions, and socioeconomic status. Between 1987 and 2001, the state recorded 7,054 fetal deaths; the team located maternal residences for 5,302 cases and 61,455 controls.

Hazardous waste sites were characterized according to type of contaminant (solvents, metals, pesticides, or radioactive substances) and type of contaminated medium (air, water, or soil). Sites were also ranked as "high priority" or "low priority" depending on their potential hazard to public or environmental health. …

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