Early-life exposure to chemical in drinking water may affect vision, study finds

July 11, 2012

Prenatal and early childhood exposure to the chemical solvent tetrachloroethylene (PCE) found in drinking water may be associated with long-term visual impairments, particularly in the area of color discrimination, a new study led by Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) researchers has found.

The study by epidemiologists and biostatisticians at BUSPH, working with an ophthalmologist from the BU School of Medicine, found that people exposed to higher levels of PCE from gestation through age 5 exhibited poorer color-discrimination abilities than unexposed people. The study, published July 11 in the journal , recommends further investigation into the associated with PCE exposure.

The research team assessed visual functioning among a group of people born between 1969 and 1983 to parents residing in eight towns in the Cape Cod region of Massachusetts. The towns all had PCE in their drinking water because of pipes outfitted with a vinyl liner that was improperly cured. Previous studies led by Ann Aschengrau, professor of epidemiology at BUSPH, have found associations between PCE exposure and cancer, as well as reproductive and . Increases in the risks of and certain birth defects were seen in the team's prior studies.

PCE is a known that was used to apply the vinyl liner of some drinking . Surveys have estimated that more than 600 miles of such pipes were installed in nearly 100 cities and towns in Massachusetts, mainly during the 1970s. Exposure to PCE from drinking water occurs by direct ingestion, dermal exposure during bathing, and by inhalation during showering, bathing and other household uses.

The pipes no longer leach PCE, but the chemical is still widely used in dry cleaning and metal degreasing solutions and is a common drinking water contaminant.

In testing vision, Aschengrau and colleagues found that people exposed to PCE made more major errors in color discrimination than those not exposed. The levels of color confusion were greatest among people with high exposure levels. PCE previously has been implicated in deficiencies in color discrimination, mainly among adults with occupational exposures. The new study is the first to assess "the associations between prenatal and early childhood exposure to PCE and adult vision," Aschengrau said. The findings suggest that "the effects of early life PCE-exposure on color discrimination may be irreversible."

Explore further: PCE in drinking water linked to an increased risk of mental illness

Related Stories

PCE in drinking water linked to an increased risk of mental illness

January 20, 2012
PCE in drinking water linked to an increased risk of mental illness

GPS for the brain: Researchers develop new brain map

May 22, 2012
University of Georgia researchers have developed a map of the human brain that shows great promise as a new guide to the inner workings of the body's most complex and critical organ.

Recommended for you

Expert: Be concerned about how apps collect, share health data

October 20, 2017
As of 2016 there were more than 165,000 health and wellness apps available though the Apple App Store alone. According to Rice University medical media expert Kirsten Ostherr, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates ...

More teens than ever aren't getting enough sleep

October 19, 2017
If you're a young person who can't seem to get enough sleep, you're not alone: A new study led by San Diego State University Professor of Psychology Jean Twenge finds that adolescents today are sleeping fewer hours per night ...

Across Asia, liver cancer is linked to herbal remedies: study

October 18, 2017
Researchers have uncovered widespread evidence of a link between traditional Chinese herbal remedies and liver cancer across Asia, a study said Wednesday.

Eating better throughout adult years improves physical fitness in old age, suggests study

October 18, 2017
People who have a healthier diet throughout their adult lives are more likely to be stronger and fitter in older age than those who don't, according to a new study led by the University of Southampton.

Global calcium consumption appears low, especially in Asia

October 18, 2017
Daily calcium intake among adults appears to vary quite widely around the world in distinct regional patterns, according to a new systematic review of research data ahead of World Osteoporosis Day on Friday, Oct. 20.

New study: Nearly half of US medical care comes from emergency rooms

October 17, 2017
Nearly half of all US medical care is delivered by emergency departments, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM). And in recent years, the percentage of care delivered ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.