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Last Edited: 8/3/2010

Water exposure and pregnancy outcomes
Written: 1988

In 1981, a leak of toxic chemicals into a drinking water well in San Jose, California was discovered to have come from an underground waste solvent storage tank at the Fairchild Camera and Instrument Company.  The Epidemiological Studies and Surveillance Section of the California Department of Health Services, in collaboration with the Santa Clara County Health Department, conducted two epidemiological studies to look at the possible relationship between the water contamination and reported adverse pregnancy outcomes.  One of these was an interview study of all pregnancy outcomes in two census tracts; the other was a county-wide hospital-based study of major cardiac defects.  These studies were completed and the results were released to the public in January 1985.

This report is concerned with another issue which arose during the analysis of the original Fairchild studies: the question of water exposure and its possible relationship to adverse pregnancy outcomes, independent of the Fairchild contamination episode.  In the original community-based interview study, we noted that women who abstained from drinking tap water had no spontaneous abortions, and that the rate of spontaneous abortion increased with the number of cups of cold tap water consumed by women during their pregnancy.  This association was seen in the exposed area and, to a lesser extent, in the unexposed area as well.  Therefore, this effect could not be attributed solely to the Fairchild contamination.   A similar association was seen for birth defects, although numbers were very small.  We examined the relationship between water exposure variables and pregnancy outcomes in a number of data sets.   In addition, further testing of well and tap water have been conducted to look for possible chemical or bacteriological agents.  This reports summarizes these investigations.

Executive summary (Size:  46KB)