Nonsignificant Increase in Birth Defects Seen With Direct Potable Reuse

In HealthDay News
by Healthday

Nonstatistically significant increase seen in prevalence of all birth defects collectively and in congenital heart disease

By Elana Gotkine HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, March 27, 2024 (HealthDay News) — Following implementation of direct potable reuse (DPR), which involves adding purified wastewater that has not passed through an environmental buffer into a water distribution system, there was a non-statistically significant increase in birth defect prevalence, according to a study published in the April issue of Environmental Epidemiology.

Jeremy M. Schraw, Ph.D., from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, and colleagues examined whether the introduction of DPR for certain public water systems in Texas was associated with changes in the prevalence of birth defects. Data were obtained on maternal characteristics for all live births and birth defect cases, regardless of pregnancy outcome, from 2003 to 2017. Changes in birth defect prevalence (per 10,000 live births) following adoption of DPR by four counties in mid-2013 were modeled using the ridge augmented synthetic control method.

The researchers found that the prevalence of all birth defects collectively and congenital heart disease increased, but the increase was not statistically significant (average treatment effect in the treated, 53.6 and 287.3, respectively) since June 2013. There was no change observed in the estimated prevalence of neural tube defects.

“Our study does not establish a causal role for DPR with respect to birth defects, but it does raise the suggestion that there may be a link between direct potable reuse and an elevated risk of birth defects at the population level, specifically congenital heart defects,” Schraw said in a statement.

One author reported previously owning shares in a water sector mutual fund that he had divested.

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