Children whose parents worked or lived near areas where drinking water was contaminated with a common industrial solvent were 2 1/2 times more likely than others to have congenital heart defects, researchers warned.
They said their study is the first to show a link between the solvent trichloroethylene (TCE) and heart defects.
The findings were based on interviews with parents of 646 children born with heart defects who were conceived in Tucson, Ariz., and whose mothers had spent the first three months of their pregnancy there, Dr. Stanley Goldberg of the University of Arizona said.
He said 32% of the parents lived or worked in a combined residential and industrial area in Tucson where TCE contaminated the drinking water from the 1950s until 1981, when the wells were closed, Goldberg said.
He said a wide variety of heart defects were observed, the researchers said.
TCE, a commonly used industrial solvent, is found in ground and surface water throughout the country, including Southern California, according to Kathleen Wolf, a chemical physicist associated with the Center for Hazardous Materials Control at UCLA.