Museum of Science Podcast Explores SPH Drinking Water Research

Posted on: January 30, 2015 Topics: environmental chemicals, epidemiology, PCE

Epidemiology Professor Ann Aschengrau and her research assistant Lindsey Butler discussed their recent studies of water contamination for the Museum of Science’s “Current Science and Technology” podcast.

Aschengrau and Butler outlined several of their goals for The Boston University Children’s Health Study, which is assessing prenatal exposure to drinking water contaminated by the industrial solvent tetrachloroethylene.

Also called perchloroethylene, or PCE, the chemical is used widely in dry cleaning, textile processing, and metal degreasing. But from 1968 to 1990, PCE was used in the vinyl linings of water pipes throughout parts of New England, where it leached into drinking water.

In the podcast, Aschengrau explained that over the past several decades, a series of animal and human studies have found that prenatal exposure to PCE is associated with a higher risk of birth defects. Aschengrau’s own studies of expectant mothers in eight Cape Cod towns who were exposed to PCE in their drinking water found an increased risk of oral clefts and neural tube defects in their children.

As part of The Boston University Children’s Health Study, Aschengrau and Butler are expanding their focus to 42 cities and towns in Massachusetts and Rhode Island that have used the types of lined water pipes that have come under scrutiny.

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