Exposure assessment in epidemiologic studies of adverse pregnancy outcomes and disinfection byproducts

J Expo Anal Environ Epidemiol. 2004 Nov;14(6):466-72. doi: 10.1038/sj.jea.7500345.


A major challenge in studies that examine the association between disinfection byproducts in drinking water and pregnancy outcomes is the accurate representation of a subject's exposure. We used household water samples and questionnaire information on water-use behavior to examine several aspects of exposure assessment: (i) the distribution and correlation of specific disinfection byproducts, (ii) spatial distribution system and temporal variation in byproduct levels, and (iii) the contribution of individual water-use behavior. The level of specific trihalomethanes (THMs) and haloacetic acids (HAAs) was determined for 360 household water samples in Eastern Ontario and Nova Scotia. Subjects were interviewed regarding tap water ingestion and showering and bathing practices. In both provinces, total THMs correlated highly with chloroform (correlation coefficient (r) >0.95) and less so with total HAAs (r = 0.74 in Nova Scotia and r = 0.52 in Ontario). The correlation between total THMs and bromodichloromethane was high in Nova Scotia (r = 0.63), but low in Ontario (r = 0.26). The correlation was between THM level in individual household samples, and the mean THM level during the same time period from several distribution system samples was 0.63, while a higher correlation in THM level was observed for samples taken at the same location 1 year apart (r = 0.87). A correlation of 0.73 was found between household THM level and a total exposure measure incorporating ingestion, showering, and bathing behaviors. These results point to the importance of: measurement of different classes of byproducts; household rather than distribution system sampling; and, incorporation of subject behaviors in exposure assessment in epidemiologic studies of disinfection byproducts and adverse pregnancy outcomes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetates / analysis*
  • Acetates / poisoning*
  • Adult
  • Canada / epidemiology
  • Data Collection
  • Disinfection
  • Environmental Exposure*
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Epidemiologic Studies
  • Epidemiological Monitoring
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hygiene
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Outcome*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Trihalomethanes / analysis*
  • Trihalomethanes / poisoning*
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / analysis*
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / poisoning*
  • Water Supply*


  • Acetates
  • Trihalomethanes
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical