News Feature | June 14, 2017

Even Low Arsenic Levels In Water Tied To Preterm Babies

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

Even low levels of arsenic in drinking water may pose serious risks to pregnancy outcomes, according to a new study.

The research, published in the latest issue of the journal Environmental Research, examined birth outcomes, including premature deliveries and very low birth weights, and arsenic concentrations in drinking water in Ohio.

“Arsenic in drinking water has been associated with adverse reproductive outcomes in areas with high levels of naturally occurring arsenic. Less is known about the reproductive effects of arsenic at lower levels,” the study said.

In the new study, researchers focused on 428,804 births in Ohio from 2006 to 2008, examining the relationship between birth outcomes and arsenic levels in drinking water.

“Because up to 80 percent of homes in some counties had private well water — for which arsenic data wasn’t available — researchers restricted their analysis to counties where less than 10 percent or 20 percent of homes used well water,” Reuters reported.

“In counties where less than 10 percent of the population used private wells, arsenic in public drinking water was associated with 14 percent higher odds of very low birth weight babies and 10 percent higher odds of premature deliveries,” the report said.

The researchers indicated that the regulatory agencies may need to tighten their rules for arsenic in drinking water.

“Current regulatory standards may not be protective against reproductive effects of prenatal exposure to arsenic,” the study said.

The Reuters article pointed out that the study had some limitations.

“Drinking water with arsenic did appear linked to a higher risk of low birth weight babies, but the added risk was too small to rule out the possibility that it was due to chance,” Reuters reported.

The U.S. EPA adopted lower standards for arsenic in drinking water in 2001, lowering the threshold from 50 ppb to 10 ppb, according to the agency.

For similar stories visit Water Online’s Drinking Water Regulations And Legislation Solutions Center.