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Concern about environmental pollutants has increased, though it remains unclear whether chronic exposures to toxic chemicals in the environment occur at doses sufficient to produce adverse health effects in humans. In this study, reprinted from the American Journal of Epidemiology, the authors have linked two existing databases of the New York State Dept. of Health to evaluate the relation between congenital malformations and residential proximity to hazardous waste sites in New York State. A total of 9,313 newborns with congenital malformations and 17,802 healthy controls living in proximity to 590 hazardous waste sites in 1983 and 1984 were evaluated. Results indicated that maternal proximity to hazardous waste sites may carry a small additional risk of bearing children with congenital malformations (odds ratio (OR) = 1.12, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.06-1.18). Higher malformation rates were associated with both a higher exposure risk (no exposure risk: OR = 1.00; low exposure risk: OR = 1.09, 95% CI 1.04-1.15; high exposure risk: OR = 1.63, 95% CI 1.34-1.99) and documentation of off-site chemical leaks (not exposed: OR = 1.00; exposed, but no leaks at site: OR = 1.08, 95% CI 1.02-1.15; exposed, and leaks found at site: OR = 1.17, 95% CI 1.08-1.27). The increased rates detected may be important in terms of their public health implications. Further research is necessary to strengthen causal inferences regarding the teratogenicity of waste site exposure.

Originally published in: American Journal of Epidemiology, v. 135, no. 11, 1992, pp. 1197-1207.

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