Spatial Distribution of Orofacial Cleft Defect Births in Harris County, Texas, and Radium in the Public Water Supplies: A Persistent Association? (abstract)

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Abstract of Journal Article - December 2008


Tex Med . 2008;104(12):55.

By Irina Cech, PhD; Ashweeta Patnaik, MPH; Keith D. Burau, PhD; and Michael H. Smolensky, PhD

Geospatial tools were used to evaluate radioactivity in drinking water and an association with cleft birth defects. From the use of a space-time clustering program (SaTScan), a significantly increased relative risk of 3.0 (95% CI, 1.8-4.3) for cleft births in northwest Harris County was previously reported for the period from 1990 through 1994. This cluster occurred in an area containing water wells with alpha radiation that exceeded allowed standards.

New data for a decade later (from 1999 through 2002) from the recently formed Texas Birth Defects Registry and concurrent data for radium in tap water from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality made it possible to conduct a follow-up investigation. Rates of cleft birth defects were again significantly ( P <.001) greater both in ZIP codes and census tracts with elevated radium concentration in drinking water. Adjustment for sex of newborn, maternal age, race, and educational achievement did not remove this association. A persistent pattern in two separate study periods makes the reported association more robust and noteworthy for the attention of Texas physicians.



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