News Feature | October 28, 2013

Contaminated Water Dangerous For Pregnant Women

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

Contaminated water consumed by a pregnant woman could endanger her baby's health, according to a new study from researchers at Princeton University. 

"Pregnant women living in areas with contaminated drinking water may be more likely to have babies that are premature or have low birth weights," Princeton Journal Watch, a blog about new research from the university, reported this month.

The study examined "birth records and drinking water testing results for the state of New Jersey from 1997 to 2007," according to the abstract of the study. "Our data enable us to compare outcomes across siblings who were potentially exposed to differing levels of harmful contaminants from drinking water while in utero."

The researchers found small effects of water contamination on all children, "but large and statistically significant effects on birth weight and gestation of infants born to less educated mothers." That might be because these mothers are less likely to move away in response to contamination. 

For many moms, it did not take expert research to alert them that drinking contaminated water is not a great idea during pregnancy. Some baby books issue warnings about the issue, stating that staying hydrated is beneficial, but only if the water is clean. 

"Exposure to drinking water contaminants such as lead, nitrates, pesticides and even the byproducts of processes that disinfect water supplies can harm your baby by retarding growth, stunting mental development and causing birth defects," You And Your Family says

Previous research has showed that tap water in general, not just contaminated water, can be bad for expectant mothers, according to a piece in The Daily Mail.

"A study of almost 400,000 babies found a clear link between chemicals formed during chlorination and the occurrence of a trio of birth defects," the report said. 

Some say even just showering in questionable water can be harmful. "Drinking water, showers, swimming pools and even the steam from a boiling kettle can all contain the problem chemicals called trihalomethanes, or THMs," the Mail piece reported.

The water industry is working to show the other side of the issue. A campaign by the American Water Works Association (AWWA) highlights tap water's strong track record. The effort is called the "only tap water delivers" campaign. 

"Did you know in North America, you can drink from virtually any public tap, while in the developing world an estimated 3 million people die every year from preventable waterborne disease?" the New England Water Works Association says as part of the campaign.