ANOTHER COMPELLING REASON TO TREAT YOUR DRINKING WATER!!!
PCE in drinking water linked to increased risk of mental illness:
January 25, 2012
Early childhood exposure to water contaminated with the solvent tetrachloroethylene (PCE) increases the risks of bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder, a new study by BU School of Public Health researchers has found.
The study, published in the journal Environmental Health, found that while there was no association between PCE exposure and the incidence of depression, people with prenatal and early-childhood exposure had almost twice the risk of bipolar disorder compared to an unexposed group. The risk of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) was raised by 50 percent. Those with the highest exposures reported the highest rates of the two mental illnesses.
PCE, a solvent used in dry-cleaning and other industries, is a neurotoxin known to cause mood changes, anxiety, and depressive disorders in people who work with it. To date, the long-term effects on children exposed to PCE have been less clear.
From 1968 until the early 1980s, water companies in Massachusetts installed vinyl-lined water pipes that were subsequently found to be leaching PCE into the drinking water supply. Researchers from BUSPH have been studying the effects of that exposure on both children and adults who were living on Cape Cod. The new study focused on prenatal and early-childhood exposure in eight towns: Barnstable, Bourne, Falmouth, Mashpee, Sandwich, Brewster, Chatham, and Provincetown.
Ann Aschengrau, professor of epidemiology at BUSPH and the study’s lead author, said that while it is impossible to calculate the exact amount of PCE people were exposed to, “levels of PCE were recorded as high as 1,550 times the currently recommended safe limit.
Ann Aschengrau “While the water companies flushed the pipes to address this problem,” she added, “people are still being exposed to PCE in the dry cleaning and textile industries, and from consumer products, and so the potential for an increased risk of illness remains real.”
While the study examined the association between PCE exposure and schizophrenia, the authors said the number of schizophrenia cases was too small to draw reliable conclusions. In addition, they noted that the study relied on self-reports of mental illness, with subjects asked if a health care provider had ever diagnosed them with a mental disorder.
The new study comes on the heels of another BUSPH study that found children exposed to PCE-contaminated drinking water before birth and in early childhood were more likely to use illegal drugs later in life. That study, also published in Environmental Health, found that people with high exposure levels during gestation and early childhood had a 1.5- to 1.6-fold increase in the risk of using two or more illegal drugs as teenagers or adults. Specific drugs for which increases were observed included cocaine, hallucinogens, club drugs, and Ritalin without a prescription.
Besides Aschengrau, the team of BUSPH researchers on the new study includes: Janice M. Weinberg, Patricia A. Janulewicz, Megan E. Romano, Lisa G. Gallagher, Michael R. Winter, Brett R. Martin, Veronica M. Vieira, Thomas F. Webster, Roberta F. White and David M. Ozonoff.
The research was funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Superfund Research Program.
For more information, visit
SOURCE: Boston University School of Public Health