By: Sylvia Booth Hubbard
Pregnant moms who live in areas where the drinking water has high levels of chlorine almost double their risk of having babies with birth defects, including heart problems, major brain defects or a cleft palate.
The threat to unborn babies is caused by chemical by-products called trihalomethanes, or THMs, which are formed when chlorine is added to water. THMs can be absorbed through the skin and then pass into the womb. Moms can expose their babies to the dangers of chlorine by drinking tap water, bathing, or simply standing close to boiling water.
Scientists at the University of Birmingham analyzed the birth records of almost 400,000 babies. They found that anencephalus (partial or complete absence of brain and spinal cord), hole-in-the-heart, and cleft palate increased between 50 and 100 percent in areas where the drinking water was heavily chlorinated to disinfect it. The risk of urinary tract defects and Down’s syndrome was also raised.
Earlier studies have linked chlorinated water to other problems, including stillbirth, miscarriage and bladder cancer.