Birth defects, tap-water disinfectant linked

Disinfectant byproducts increase likelihood of cleft palate and spina bifida

Mothers who drink tap water containing disinfectant byproducts are more likely to give birth to children with defects such as cleft palate and spina bifida, a study finds.

The report, published in the journal Environmental Research, is the first to find a link between the byproducts chlorite and chlorate and birth defects, according to Environmental Health News. Researchers compared babies with and without birth defects in Emilia Romagna, Italy, and estimated their mothers’ exposure to chemical byproducts using data from local water authorities. They found women who were exposed to high levels of chlorite were nearly seven times more likely to have a baby with abdominal-wall defects, while mothers exposed to high concentrations of chlorate were nearly 10 times more likely to have a baby with cleft palate and five times more likely to have a baby with spina bifida.

Disinfectants are used in tap water to kill disease-spreading microbes, but create byproducts like chlorite and chlorate when they interact with organic material in the water.