Teratogenic activity of trichloroacetic acid in the rat

Teratology. 1989 Nov;40(5):445-51. doi: 10.1002/tera.1420400506.


Trichloroacetic acid (TCA) is a by-product of the chlorine disinfection of water containing natural organic material. It is detectable in finished drinking water at levels comparable to the trihalomethanes (30-160 micrograms/L). TCA is also formed in vivo after ingestion of hypochlorite and has been identified as a major metabolite of chlorinated hydrocarbons such as trichloroethylene. The developmental effects of TCA were evaluated in the pregnant Long-Evans rat. Animals were dosed by oral intubation on gestation days 6-15 (plug = 0) with 0, 330, 800, 1,200, or 1,800 mg/kg/day. The vehicle control was distilled water. Maternal observations included clinical signs, weight change, and gross evaluation of organ weights and uterine contents at necropsy (day 20). Live fetuses were examined for external, skeletal, and soft tissue malformation. There were no maternal deaths associated with toxicity prior to sacrifice. Weight gain during treatment was reduced at 800, 1,200, and 1,800 mg/kg. Spleen and kidney weights were increased in a dose-related manner. The mean percent of resorbed implants per litter was 34, 62, and 90 at 800, 1,200, and 1,800 mg/kg, respectively. Live fetuses showed dose-dependent reductions in weight and length. The mean frequency of soft tissue malformations ranged from 9% at the low dose to 97% at the high dose. These were principally in the cardiovascular system (interventricular septal defect, levocardia). Skeletal malformations were found only at 1,200 and 1,800 mg/kg and were mainly in the orbit. Based on these observations TCA was considered to be developmentally toxic in the pregnant rat at doses of 330 mg/kg and above.

MeSH terms

  • Abnormalities, Drug-Induced / etiology*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Body Height / drug effects
  • Body Weight / drug effects
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Embryonic and Fetal Development / drug effects
  • Female
  • Rats
  • Trichloroacetic Acid / toxicity*


  • Trichloroacetic Acid