The association of waterborne chloroform with intrauterine growth retardation

Epidemiology. 1992 Sep;3(5):407-13. doi: 10.1097/00001648-199209000-00005.


The potential reproductive effects of long-term, low-dose exposure to chloroform have received little attention despite the known, acute toxicity of high exposures and the wide-spread occurrence of low concentrations in drinking water. We studied the association of waterborne chloroform with low birthweight (less than 2,500 gm), prematurity (less than 37 weeks gestation), and intrauterine growth retardation (less than 5th percentile of weight for gestational age). Cases were not mutually exclusive, but each outcome was analyzed independently. Birth certificates from January 1, 1989, to June 30, 1990, were used to identify cases and randomly selected controls. All were live, singleton infants born to non-Hispanic, white women from Iowa towns with 1,000-5,000 inhabitants. Exposures to chloroform and other trihalomethanes were ecologic variables based on maternal residence and a 1987 municipal water survey. After adjustment for maternal age, parity, adequacy of prenatal care, marital status, education, and maternal smoking by multiple logistic regression, residence in municipalities where chloroform concentrations were greater than or equal to 10 micrograms/liter was associated with an increased risk for intrauterine growth retardation (odds ratio = 1.8, 95% confidence interval = 1.1-2.9). The major limitations of this study involve the ascertainment and classification of exposures to trihalomethanes, including such issues as the imprecision of using aggregate municipal measures for classifying exposure at the level of the individual, the potential misclassification due to residential mobility, and the fluctuation of trihalomethane levels.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Chloroform / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Fetal Growth Retardation / chemically induced*
  • Fetal Growth Retardation / epidemiology
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Hydrocarbons, Halogenated / adverse effects
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature
  • Infant, Small for Gestational Age
  • Iowa / epidemiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Random Allocation
  • Risk Factors
  • Water Supply*


  • Hydrocarbons, Halogenated
  • Chloroform