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Last Edited: 3/11/2004

Chlorination By-Products in Drinking Water and Menstrual Cycle Function
Written: 2003


We analyzed data from a prospective study of menstrual cycle function and early pregnancy loss to explore further the effects of trihalomethanes (THM) on reproductive end points. Premenopausal women (n = 403) collected urine samples daily during an average of 5.6 cycles for measurement of steroid metabolites that were used to define menstrual parameters such as cycle and phase length. Women were asked about consumption of various types of water as well as other habits and demographics. A THM level was estimated for each cycle based on residence and quarterly measurements made by water utilities during a 90-day period beginning 60 days before the cycle start date. We found a monotonic decrease in mean cycle length with increasing total THM (TTHM) level; at > 60 g/L, the adjusted decrement was 1.1 days [95% confidence interval (CI), -1.8 to -0.40], compared with 40 g/L. This finding was also reflected as a reduced follicular phase length (difference -0.94 day; 95% CI, -1.6 to -0.24). A decrement in cycle and follicular phase length of 0.18 days (95% CI, -0.29 to -0.07) per 10 g/L unit increase in TTHM concentration was found. There was little association with luteal phase length, menses length, or cycle variability. Examining the individual THMs by quartile, we found the greatest association with chlorodibromomethane or the sum of the brominated compounds. Incorporating tap water consumption showed a similar pattern of reduced cycle length with increasing TTHM exposure. These findings suggest that THM exposure may affect ovarian function and should be confirmed in other studies. Key words: chlorination by-products, drinking water, environmental health, menstrual cycle, ovarian function, reproductive health, trihalomethanes.

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