Some studies have noted an association between maternal occupational exposures to chlorinated solvents and birth defects in offspring, but data are lacking on the potential impact of industrial air emissions of these solvents on birth defects.
With data from the Texas Birth Defects Registry for births occurring in 1996-2008, we examined the relation between maternal residential proximity to industrial air releases of chlorinated solvents and birth defects in offspring of 60,613 case-mothers and 244,927 control-mothers. Maternal residential exposures to solvent emissions were estimated with metrics that took into account residential distances to industrial sources and annual amounts of chemicals released. Logistic regression was used to generate odds ratios and 95% confidence intervals for the associations between residential proximity to emissions of 14 chlorinated solvents and selected birth defects, including neural tube, oral cleft, limb deficiency, and congenital heart defects. All risk estimates were adjusted for year of delivery and maternal age, education, race/ethnicity, and public health region of residence.
Relative to exposure risk values of 0, neural tube defects were associated with maternal residential exposures (exposure risk values >0) to several types of chlorinated solvents, most notably carbon tetrachloride (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] 1.42, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.09, 1.86); chloroform (aOR 1.40, 95% CI 1.04, 1.87); ethyl chloride (aOR 1.39, 95% CI 1.08, 1.79); 1,1,2-trichloroethane (aOR 1.56, 95% CI 1.11, 2.18); and 1,2,3-trichloropropane (aOR 1.49, 95% CI 1.08, 2.06). Significant associations were also noted between a few chlorinated solvents and oral cleft, limb deficiency, and congenital heart defects. We observed stronger associations between some emissions and neural tube, oral cleft, and heart defects in offspring of mothers 35 years or older, such as spina bifida with carbon tetrachloride (aOR 2.49, 95% CI 1.09, 5.72), cleft palate with 1,2-dichloroethane (aOR 1.93, 95% 1.05, 3.54), cleft lip with or without cleft palate with ethyl chloride (aOR 1.81, 95% CI 1.06, 3.07), and obstructive heart defects with trichloroethylene (aOR 1.43, 95% CI 1.08, 1.88).
These findings suggest that maternal residential proximity to industrial emissions of chlorinated solvents might be associated with selected birth defects in offspring, especially among older mothers.