Background: Waste-disposal sites are a potential hazard to health. This study is a multicentre case-control study of the risk of congenital anomalies associated with residence near hazardous-waste landfill sites in Europe.
Methods: We used data from seven regional registers of congenital anomalies in five countries. We studied 1089 livebirths, stillbirths, and terminations of pregnancy with non-chromosomal congenital anomalies and 2366 control births without malformation, whose mothers resided within 7 km of a landfill site; 21 sites were included. A zone within 3 km radius of each site was defined as the "proximate zone" of most likely exposure to teratogens.
Findings: Residence within 3 km of a landfill site was associated with a significantly raised risk of congenital anomaly (295 cases/511 controls living 0-3 km from sites, 794/1855 living 3-7 km from sites; combined odds ratio 1.33 [95% CI 1.11-1.59], adjusted for maternal age and socioeconomic status). There was a fairly consistent decrease in risk with distance away from the sites. A significantly raised odds ratio for residence within 3 km of a landfill site was found for neural-tube defects (odds ratio 1.86 [1.24-2.79]), malformations of the cardiac septa (1.49 [1.09-2.04]), and anomalies of great arteries and veins (1.81 [1.02-3.20]). Odds ratios of borderline significance were found for tracheo-oesophageal anomalies (2.25 [0.96-5.26]), hypospadias (1.96 [0.98-3.92]), and gastroschisis (3.19 [0.95-10.77]). There was little evidence of differences in risk between landfill sites but power to detect such differences was low.
Interpretation: This study shows a raised risk of congenital anomaly in babies whose mothers live close to landfill sites that handle hazardous chemical wastes, although there is a need for further investigation of whether the association of raised risk of congenital anomaly and residence near landfill sites is a causal one. Apparent differences between malformation subgroups should be interpreted cautiously.