Agricultural Compounds in Water and Birth Defects

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Wednesday, June 1, 2016
Jean D. Brender
Peter J. Weyer
Journal Title: 
Current Environmental Health Reports

Agricultural compounds have been detected in drinking water, some of which are teratogens in animal models. The most commonly detected agricultural compounds in drinking water include nitrate, atrazine, and desethylatrazine. Arsenic can also be an agricultural contaminant, although arsenic often originates from geologic sources. Nitrate has been the most studied agricultural compound in relation to prenatal exposure and birth defects. In several case-control studies published since 2000, women giving birth to babies with neural tube defects, oral clefts, and limb deficiencies were more likely than control mothers to be exposed to higher concentrations of drinking water nitrate during pregnancy. Higher concentrations of atrazine in drinking water have been associated with abdominal defects, gastroschisis, and other defects. Elevated arsenic in drinking water has also been associated with birth defects. Since these compounds often occur as mixtures, it is suggested that future research focus on the impact of mixtures, such as nitrate and atrazine, on birth defects.


Brender, J. D., & Weyer, P. J. (2016). Agricultural compounds in water and birth defects. Current Environmental Health Reports, 3(2), 144-152. DOI: 10.1007/s40572-016-0085-0.