Reproductive toxicity

Some animals studies have shown teratogenic effects following exposure to chloroform (as reviewed in Barlow and Sullivan, 1982; BUA, 1993), but results are conflicting. Chloroform may reasonably be anticipated to be teratogenic in humans (Davidson et al., 1982), although human data are limited.

A retrospective review of female laboratory workers found a weak association between working with chloroform and spontaneous abortion (Wennborg et al., 2000). Chloroform crosses the placenta and is present in cord blood in concentrations equal to or greater than that of maternal blood (Dowty et al., 1976).

Chloroform is found in water. It is one of the many by-products produced by the reaction of chlorine (in the chlorination of water) with naturally occurring organic material in source waters. A study of adverse reproductive outcomes and the concentrations of trihalomethanes in drinking water in Iowa, USA, found an increased risk of intrauterine growth retardation, associated with chloroform concentrations equal to, or above, 10 |g/l. Compounding factors including maternal age, parity, prenatal care, marital status, education and maternal smoking were taken into consideration. However, the study has limitations including difficulty in ascertaining fluctuations in the trihalomethane concentrations and individual exposure concentrations (Kramer et al., 1992). Unknown contaminants may also have been compounding factors (IPCS, 1994).

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